Sun City - Korean golf rookie Jeunghun Wang has set an enviable pace to lift the Nedbank Golf Challenge trophy when the final round of the $7 million (R100.36 million) sponsored event concludes at the Gary Player Country Club on Sunday.
This after the 21-year-old player from Seoul put himself in the driving seat by opening a three-point cushion when he carded a score of 11 under-par for 64, leaving South African Louis Oosthuizen reeling in his wake with an 8 under-par 70 in second place, in a gripping third round of the European Sunshine Tour co-sanctioned event.
Making his Sun City debut, Wang, who competes on the European and Asian tours, and has won only two events on the European Tour this year, took early leaderboard control by sinking four birdies in the back nine in holes one, two, four and six. Despite the searing heat at the Sun City venue, Wang showed composure on the fairway with a calculated use of irons and long drives that made Oosthuizen somewhat nervous, causing the South African to commit silly putting mistakes.
Wang’s best hole was the par five 10th hole, in which he scored an eagle when his long tee-shot landed impressively on the edge, leaving him with two putts.
Oosthuizen, winner of the 2010 British Open, scored four birdies, but later made a fool of himself when he bogeyed the eighth and the last two holes – thereby bowing to the pressure placed on his shoulders by hundreds of his supporters, who were loudly cheering him on while he was hitting shots.
Third in command was Englishman Andy Sullivan, who closed the proceedings with under-seven for 68, with Mzansi’s top world-ranked golfer Branden Grace closing his run the day on five under-par for 71.
Winner of the Joburg Open (2012) and the Alfred Dunhill Championship (2012 and 2014), Grace struggled with his short play, which invariably cost him a number of birdies. This showed when he blew three holes.
But with this tournament renowned for changing leadership overnight, especially on the last day of the showdown, somebody might just take the game by the scruff of the neck to set the pace.
But from the way he executes his shots, Wang looks to be the man to beat and take home the trophy that goes with the $1.6 million first prize.
Sweden’s on-form player Henrik Stenson, who is gunning for Race to Dubai victory this coming weekend, had a lukewarm round that saw him tied sixth with South African Jaco van Zyl.
With Stenson having showed such remarkable form, the cool Swede might turn up the heat after winning the contest, and repeat the magic that saw him conquer the Nedbank Golf Challenge in 2008.
The glamorous contest has so far not failed to sparkle since it started on Thursday.
A classic case was on Friday when Paraguayan Fabrizio Zanotti became the first golfer to score a hole-in-one at the contest since its inception 35 years ago.
The 35-year-old player stepped onto the par-three, 4th tee.
He hit a tee-shot and his ball pitched about 3m before the hole and rolled in, much to the joy of the delirious fans in attendance at the picturesque venue.
So with the final round being played on Sunday, something extraordinary might just happen to mark the conclusion of the showpiece. And Wang might just be the youngster to reign supreme.