Sun City - Branden Grace dropped his first shot on the back nine for the week in the third round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge as he carded a four-under-par 68 score to total five-under par and maintain his shared third spot on moving day.
The South African has had to deal with drops every day of the tournament on the front stretch, but his performance on the homeward nine has literally kept him in contention in the $7.5 million event.
“I’m a grinder, a fighter,” he said of how he’s managed to come back strongly on the back nine for the better part of this tournament.
“Yesterday wasn’t the best of stuff. The first nine didn’t really feel too good. Mind over matter, a little bit after that. I told myself that If I can get it to under par, I’m still in this tournament. And I knew I had to grind a good score out today.”
Indeed, he did grind that good score on Saturday. He made consecutive pars on his first four holes before dropping a shot on the par-five fifth hole. Birdies on the sixth and eighth holes made up for that drop but it was on the back nine that he played strongly. After turning in 35, the 29-year old Grace made back-to-back birdies on 10 and 11, and again on 14 and 15 to sign for a 68. On a total of five-under, he, along with Germany’s Martin Kaymer, lies three shots behind leader Scott Jamieson.
“I think five-under was my target,” Grace admitted.
“But, I was obviously disappointed bogeying the last. I think that was my only poor shot I hit all day off the tee but those things happen but it’s still a good round. Tomorrow anything can happen so hopefully I can pull an Alex off tomorrow.”
He will take comfort in knowing - from last season’s experience when Alex Noren came from six shots behind to win this tournament - that it is never over until the last putt is sunk.
The chase, however, will not be an easy one as Jamieson is also looking good going into the final round. He signed for an unblemished five-under-par 67 round in which he made three birdies on the front and two more on the back nine.
“I was much better on the greens today than I have been in the last couple of days,” said Jamieson.
“I need a good week to get myself into Dubai next week, so that’s at the back of my mind as well. So, hopefully I can just win the golf tournament and that will take care of itself.”
Forward-looking as he may be, Jamieson refuses to put pressure on himself ahead of the final round at the Gary Player Country Club and aims to draw on similar past experiences when he tees off on Sunday.
“I think I’ve won from five behind and lost from six in front before, so the key is just not to panic and know I’m going to have some bad shots but there’s always going to be holes beyond to recover.”
Also in contention on moving day is debutant Haydn Porteous whose five-under 67 third round took him to three-under for the week and in a share of fifth with Italy’s Francesco Molinari. Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel are two-under for the tournament and share the seventh spot with Matthieu Pavon of France, England’s Tommy Fleetwood, Scotland’s David Drysdale and Englishmen, Ross Fisher and Lee Westwood.
third-round scores from the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City, South
Africa on Saturday (par 72, GBR/IRL unless stated):
208 – Scott Jamieson 68-73-67
209 – Victor Dubuisson (FRA) 68-70-71
211 – Branden Grace (RSA) 68-75-68, Martin Kaymer (GER) 73-69-69
213 – Haydn Porteous (RSA) 73-73-67, Francesco Molinari (ITA) 73-75-65
214 – Matthieu Pavon (FRA) 72-74-68, Tommy Fleetwood 73-74-67, David
Drysdale 72-73-69, Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) 71-73-70, Charl Schwartzel
(RSA) 69-73-72, Ross Fisher 70-71-73, Lee Westwood 70-70-74
215 - Richard Sterne (RSA) 74-72-69, Matthew Fitzpatrick 70-77-68,
Hideto Tanihara (JPN) 69-76-70, Graeme Storm 69-75-71, Shane Lowry
72-71-72, Joost Luiten (NED) Richie Ramsay 73-70-72, Darren Fichardt
216 – Ian Poulter 74-72-70, Alex Noren (SWE) 69-72-75
217 – Padraig Harrington 74-72-71