Sergio Garcia fired a 71 on day three of the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player to open up a two-shot lead.
Sergio Garcia fired a 71 on day three of the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player to open up a two-shot lead as he looks for a wire-to-wire victory in the seventh Rolex Series event of the season. The Spaniard led by four after round one but fellow Major Champion Louis Oosthuizen cut that to one shot after 36 holes and the South African will be the nearest challenger heading into Sunday at Gary Player Country Club.
Garcia will enter the final day at ten under as he looks to make it back-to-back wins after triumphing at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters hosted by his own foundation, with Oosthuizen carding a 72 to sit in second.
Belgian Thomas Detry, Finn Mikko Korhonen and England's Lee Westwood were then at seven under, a shot clear of another Englishman in Ross Fisher.
Garcia has nine wins from his previous 14 54-hole leads on the European Tour and would be the second wire-to-wire winner of the season after Eddie Pepperell at the Sky Sports British Masters. A victory would be Garcia's second wire-to-wire win in the last two seasons and his third triumph at Gary Player Country Club after winning this event in 2001 and 2003 before it joined the European Tour International Schedule.
“To win would be great,” he said. “Winning any tournament is always amazing but winning here, a Rolex Series Event, obviously is extra special. It would be really nice and we're going to try to do that. “It's going to be tough, there's no doubt about that, but it's great to come with some good momentum, playing nicely and in the lead. It should be a fun day.
“I think if I can manage to shoot somewhere in the 60s, maybe 70 might be enough. I'm going to see if I can shoot below 70 and see if that's good enough.”
In the quest to stay in the hunt for the Race to Dubai next week, Li Haotong and Lucas Bjerregaard both need a win but were ten and 14 shots back respectively, while Rory McIlroy - who needs a top-two finish - was at level par.
Garcia got on the green at the par-five second in two for a birdie, hit an approach to three feet on the third and then made an excellent par on the fourth after finding a horrible stance off the tee on the par three. Korhonen dropped a first shot of the day on the fifth but a long double-breaker on the sixth got him back to six under.
Oosthuizen found the sand off the par-three seventh tee and dropped a shot but an approach to four feet on the ninth cut Garcia's lead back to three. Korhonen picked up a birdie on the par-five tenth and with Garcia playing a clumsy chip after hitting a tree on the 13th, he was just three back.
Oosthuizen put his third in the sand and then flew the green on the 14th to drop a shot, leaving the door open for Korhonen, who put his approach to five feet to move into solo second just two behind. There was then a two-shot swing on the 17th, with Garcia making a birdie from 12 feet and Korhonen missing the green and failing to get up and down.
Garcia clattered his second on the last into the grandstand to close his round with a bogey, with Oosthuizen sending the home crowd wild as he made a birdie from ten feet after getting a fortunate bounce.
Westwood enjoyed the par-five ninth and tenth, going birdie-birdie after going birdie-bogey from the sixth. He dropped a shot on the next but the two-time winner here birdied the 13th before adding another at the par-five 14th. Detry was level par after 12 holes with a birdie on the third and a bogey on the tenth before he joined Westwood in birdieing the 13th and 14th. The 25 year old holed from 20 feet on the 15th for hat-trick, hit a stunner into the 17th and then saved par from 25 feet on the last.
Fisher mounted a remarkable comeback with a 67 after dropping eight shots in his last four holes on Friday. He birdied the second and third and, while he gave a shot back at the eighth, he went birdie-eagle over the two par fives at the turn and then added another birdie at the 13th.
Local favourite Darren Fichardt carded a 67 to sit at four under, a shot clear of fellow South African Dean Burmester and French duo Benjamin Hebert and Mike Lorenzo-Vera.