Johannesburg – Thomas Aiken raced to a nine-under-par 63 for a share of the lead with Justin Walters at 17-under-par in the third round of the Joburg Open at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club on Saturday.
His 10 birdies and a single bogey put him two strokes clear of Korea's Jin Jeong and three of Roope Kakko of Finland.
“I sank some nice putts today, and that showed in the difference in my scores,” Aiken said.
“I played the par-fives very well and hit every green in two on those long holes. I had some good shots in, and made a few long ones, especially that huge putt on 14.”
He said the key to his round was staying focused on each shot rather than riding the wave of euphoria the 10 birdies brought.
“I didn't really know what I was scoring,” he said.
“You never really see a low score coming – you just focus on each shot.”
Walters followed a similar tactic as he carded an eight-under-par 64 with seven birdies, a bogey and stunning approach shot to inside a foot on the 18th which yielded an eagle three.
“I made a point of not looking at the leaderboard, so I had no idea what was going on behind me,” Walters said.
The pair used to have chipping competitions as youngsters at Walters' home, and lay out nine-hole tracks at Aiken's.
They spend time together when they travel in Europe, and now they will be vying for the Joburg Open title.
“I feel like I can win any tournament I play,” said Aiken.
“I've been out here a long time and from a ball striking point of view I'm as good as anybody out here.
“Those weeks where you can merge your ball striking with your short game is when you perform.”
Walters said while Sunday would be an ideal opportunity to take the spoils he admitted that he would be nervous.
“I've got one more round and I'm so happy that I've put myself into a strong position,” Walters said.
“I'm super excited for tomorrow, because it's what we play for.” – Sapa