For generations of South African golfers, a victory in the Nedbank Golf Challenge has been a childhood dream. On Sunday, either Zander Lombard or Louis Oosthuizen could make that dream a reality.
Lombard heads the field on 11 under par following a hard-fought 72 at the Gary Player Country Club on Saturday. One shot behind him is countryman Louis Oosthuizen, who described his 71 as “scrappy”. And also on 10 under par is Belgium’s Thomas Detry, who did extremely well to sign for a 69 despite a double bogey and a bogey in his final five holes.
But while a victory in a premier Rolex Series event on the European Tour is on any golfer’s wish list, a victory in “Africa’s Major” is a particular source of pride for a South African golfer.“It’s a South African child’s dream to win this tournament. It’s Africa’s Major, it’s a home-from-home for me. The money aside, it would just be great if I could give the fans what they want and hopefully pull it through,”said Lombard, who showed great character to keep his challenge on track.
He teed off the third round with a two-stroke lead but found himself three-over-par through eight holes when he bogeyed the sixth and then made double bogey on the eighth. But he fought his way back with birdies at holes nine, 10, 14 and 15 before another bogey on 16 for his round of level par.“I just couldn’t get it going today. I didn’t really make any mistakes, but I missed two or three fairways that put me behind the eight ball. You can’t attack this golf course from the rough. But I stuck to my guns and started driving it better, and it was much better golf on the back nine. All in all, I’m still in the lead. I’ve got to stay positive,”he said.
Oosthuizen felt his third-round 71 was just as much of a struggle.“It was very scrappy. I wasn’t on top of the irons and wasn’t hitting it close enough. You can’t expect to make birdies from a long way all the time. I need to find that swing I had in the first round,”he said.
And much like Lombard, he has his own childhood dream he’s thinking about.“Growing up as a kid, this is the tournament you watched. You wanted to have your name on those plaques on the walkway to the ninth green. It would mean a lot.”