Sergio Garcia reasserted himself at the top of the leaderboard at the Nedbank Golf Challenge (NGC) halfway through the third round on Saturday.
The Spaniard‚ who started the day one clear of Louis Oosthuizen‚ stretched that advantage with birdies on the second and the third‚ before the South African dropped a further shot back when he bogeyed the seventh.
Things almost got worse.
On Friday Oosthuizen spoke of his unease when he reaches the eighth tee and he knowingly dropped his head after watching his ball veer left towards the bush on Saturday.
Whether aided by a friendly bounce or a spectator’s shoe‚ the ball found its way onto the cart path that flanks the fairway. It meant he had a free drop but Oosthuizen failed to capitalise on his good fortune and hit the ball into the bunker that guards the front of the green. He did well to salvage par from there.
He clawed a shot back on the par-five ninth thanks to a precision approach that almost found the cup.
England’s Ross Fisher and Finland’s Mikko Korhonen were five off the pace on six-under.
Oosthuizen is being urged on by enthusiastic home support as he goes in search of his maiden NGC title.
“It will be nice if a South African guy plays well and be in the last group on Sunday‚” he said after the second round. “The crowd has been good. I think it is going to be a good weekend.
“It is great teeing off in front of your home crowd. I would love to win it for them and play well for everyone walking with‚ friends and family. Once you’ve teed off you are in your own little world doing your own thing.”
Garcia‚ however‚ was three clear after nine thanks largely to some steady golf.
“It is always nice playing with Sergio‚” said Oosthuizen. “It will be great fun around this track. He’s won here before. He knows this golf course as well. It will be a good day.”
Whatever happens in the remainder of his round Oosthuizen is staying up late.
“I’m definitely watching the rugby‚” he said about the Springboks’ late kickoff against France in Paris later on Saturday.
“I don’t care if I’m teeing off at 6am. I’m watching the rugby. I sent Schalk Brits a text saying we are all behind them and that they should make us proud again. I’ve got confidence in them.”