Branden Grace and Thriston Lawrence are at the forefront of the South African charge in the Nedbank Golf Challenge as they both head into Sunday’s final round only one stroke off the lead and looking to ensure a local champion in this milestone 40th edition of “Africa’s Major”.
A long day of golf at the Gary Player Country Club where the players had to complete the weather-interrupted second round and then head straight into the third round finished with Grace and Lawrence on eight under par, just one shot off the joint lead held by Belgium’s Thomas Detry and Denmark’s Rasmus Højgaard.
By the time the second round was completed on Saturday morning, Luke Donald and Richard Bland shared the lead on eight under par, with Grace one shot back, Højgaard two off the lead, Detry four shots back and Lawrence seven behind.
But the afternoon’s third round proved a different story.
Detry was first into the clubhouse with a 67 to set the target at nine under par. “I managed to find some confidence on the greens. My game has been in great form and I feel like everything is clicking again,” he said.
Højgaard joined him in the lead with a third round of 69. “I’ve been driving the ball pretty well. You need to drive it well on this course. In the final round I’ll try and stay as calm as possible and not try and force anything. I’ve got a good feeling about it,” he said.
And the South Africans as a group made a strong push up the leaderboard.
Lawrence teed off the 10th, birdied four of his six holes to the turn and added a further three birdies on his second nine for a 65 and a tournament total of eight under par. “I’ve been hitting it unbelievably well from tee to green. This is probably my best round ever on this golf course, and it was a good day to do it,” said Lawrence, who is having a dream debut in the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
Grace had a more patient 71 to join him on eight under par.
“It’s put me back where I needed to be. From tee to green I hit it as well as I’ve ever done on this golf course. I struggled to find the speed of the greens, though. But I’m one behind going into the final round. I’m enjoying my golf and if I can shoot five or six under in the final round, I’ll be in with a shout,”said Grace, who is the last South African winner of this tournament in 2017.
Behind them, Christiaan Bezuidenhout will start the final round just two shots off the lead, and Richard Sterne is four shots back.