SUN CITY – Sergio Garcia fired a 71 on day three of the Nedbank Golf Challenge on Saturday 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 occupy second.
Belgian Thomas Detry, Finn Mikko Korhonen and England's Lee Westwood were 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 England’s 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.
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.
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.- African News Agency (ANA), Editing by Michael Sherman
African News Agency (ANA)