Birthday boy Nel one off the pace

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Colin_Nel Gallo Images Colin Nel shot a flawless 68.

Cape Town – Colin Nel celebrated his birthday with a faultless four-under-par 68 to be one shot off the pace after the third round of the Lion of Africa Cape Town Open on Saturday.

Nel, clad in a pair of trousers with a South African flag motif, found himself on seven-under-par 209 after leader Mark Williams made two double-bogeys on his way home and saw the five-stroke lead he held at halfway dwindle to just the one as he carded a three-over-par 75 at Royal Cape Golf Club.

“It was a kind of birthday wish for me that I’d be happy with two or three-under-par,” said Nel.

“To finish four-under is a cherry on top.”

On a day on which the wind gusted and rain squalls made life unpleasant, his error-free round was the only one without a bogey.

“It was tough out there today. It was a grind. My goal today was to come out and try not to make any bogeys and I managed to do it,” he said.

“The last two holes tested me but I’ll take it – I was happy with it.” Those last two holes showed the deft side to his game, as he was wayward with his approaches to 17 and 18 and he needed to chip close enough to make sure of par.

“They were two good chips and two good putts which was perfect,” he said. “My short game has been good the whole week. I’ve had a bit of an oopsy-daisy every now and then, but for the most part it has been pretty good.” Williams was not too upset about the loss of his big lead.

“Two holes, two bad shots,” he shrugged.

“It cost me but I tried to just put it behind me. I’ve got 18 holes tomorrow and I’m looking forward to coming out and making every shot count.”

Behind the leading pair, Christiaan Basson made his third consecutive 70 to be two strokes off the pace, and that was in a round that was not without its fair share of adventure. He made two long putts – one for eagle on the seventh and the other for birdie on 16, and then he splashed spectacularly out of water left by the rain in a lateral hazard on the 18th to make bogey.

“It didn’t feel like bogey after I got it out of there,” said Basson.

“I just hope they caught that on television.”

For Nel, who has yet to win on the Sunshine Tour – as has Williams – it’s going to be a nerve-wracking final round.

“I’ve got some nerves about being near the top. I suppose you have to have a few. I felt it coming down the stretch today, so having those two good up-and-downs settled them down and made it positive for tomorrow,” he said.

Williams is as positive.

“The tournament begins on the back nine on Sunday,” he said.

“If someone had said to me I’d have a one-stroke lead going into the final round, I would have taken it.”

Basson, on the other hand, has two wins on the Sunshine Tour to his name. Experience could be decisive. – Sapa

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