Johannesburg – Richard Sterne and Trevor Fisher Jnr were able to maintain their lead in the Joburg Open after the third round of the co-sanctioned Sunshine and European Tour event at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club on Saturday.
Sterne and Fisher both shot four-under-par 68s on the East Course to head into Sunday's final round on 19-under-par, five strokes ahead of the chasing pack which comprised the 2010 and 2011 champion, Charl Schwartzel, fellow South Africans Jaco van Zyl and George Coetzee, and Chilean Felipe Aguilar.
Sterne, the 2008 Joburg Open champion, was once again the model of consistency, making just one bogey, his five on the 15th being his first dropped shot in 51 holes.
Fisher, who won the award for the Sunshine Tour's Players' Player of the Year earlier this week, is yet to win a European Tour event, but he recovered well from successive bogeys at Royal Joburg's famous par-four 10th and 11th holes, both of which are longer than 450 metres.
Former Masters champion Schwartzel, the highest ranked player in the field at 18th in the world, produced a faultless round with four birdies, but was not at his best, particularly with the putter.
“My game is not bad, but it can be a lot better. A bunch of putts didn't go in, so I hope that clicks tomorrow,” Schwartzel said.
“If I can go out and get to twenty-something under, then I'll have a chance.”
Sterne finished second in last week's Dubai Desert Classic, so the 31-year-old was looking to go one better on Sunday.
“Playing in the final group two weeks in a row is draining to be honest, but I'd rather have that experience than not,” Sterne said.
Fisher said “staying in the present” had steadied him after his wobble on the 10th and 11th holes and he then hit his tee-shot on the par-three 12th to six feet for birdie, before sinking a lengthy putt on 13 to pick up another stroke.
“I wasn't playing my best shots out there, I was a bit jumpy on my swing and not feeling so good, but if you putt well, that's what matters,” Fisher said.
The consistent Coetzee once again found himself in the top three heading into the final round of a European Tour event, even though he had to overcome a shaky putter. Three successive birdies to end his round saw him leap back up the leaderboard and no doubt did his confidence a world of good heading into the final round.
Van Zyl eagled the par-five first hole and did enough thereafter to shoot a 67 and climb into a share of third, while a birdie on the 18th allowed Aguilar to sign for a 68 and join that group. – Sapa