ST ANDREWS, Scotland – South Africa's Brandon Stone is on another roll following his Scottish Open victory in July, Ernie Els produced some old magic on an emotional day for him, but England's Tyrrell Hatton is on the trail of giants in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
The 26-year-old Hatton, winner of this event for the past two years, is bidding to match the achievement of legends Tiger Woods, Sir Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie by winning the same tournament three years in row.
He birdied the par-four 18th on the Old Course at St Andrews Saturday after driving the green to sign for a 66 and he sits on the top of the leaderboard through 54 holes on 14-under-par 202. Australia's Marcus Fraser is lying second on 203 with Hatton's fellow Englishman and fellow Ryder Cup hero Tommy Fleetwood next best on 205 alongside Scotland's Stephen Gallacher.
"To join that club (Woods, Faldo and Montgomerie) would be so special," said Hatton, "and I'm in a good position to do so, and that's all we can ask for." In Stone's last tournament on a links course he shot a mind-blowing final round 60 to win the Scottish Open at Gullane in July.
"That was memorable and although I'm still playing well and putting beautifully, I don't think I'll be doing that again (60) in tomorrow's final round as they are expecting high winds," he said Saturday after an eight-birdie 65 in fine conditions which included just one bogey.
"Give me another 65 tomorrow, though, and I'l grab it with both hands!" he exclaimed. "As I say, today was great although I did leave a couple of shots out there, notably at 17 and 18 where I had birdie chances but could only manage pars."
At the Road Hole 17th, one of the world golf's most fearsome par-fours, he ripped a drive 340 yards down the middle and then hit a wedge to eight feet, only to see his birdie putt lip out. Then at the short par-4 18th he nearly drove the green but three-putted from just off the putting surface to again miss out on birdie. But for the rest his golf - watched by his new bride Anette - was simply superb Stone is on nine-under-par 207, five back of Hatton. But, like he proved in the Scottish Open, he knows how to come from behind.
Els, also playing at St Andrews and with his father Neels his partner in the separate pro-am competition, was five under through 13 holes only to bogey 14 and 16 en route to a 69. But at four-under he comfortably made the cut on his much-loved autistic son Ben's 16th birthday.
"So, yeah, I was thinking of Ben out there and also Apie Strauss, a very close friend of both me and my dad, who passed away from a heart attack yesterday (Friday) in Herold's Bay where he's my dad's neighbour. Apie lived life to the full and it's heartbreaking to lose him, so it was an emotional day out there."
After a disappointing first two rounds of 73 and 74, Branden Grace hit form Saturday at St Andrews with a 65 and he too makes the 54-hole cut and is on four-under like Els and compatriot Trevor Immelman who had a 68 at Carnoustie. Oliver Bekker (210), Peter Karmis (210), Louis Oosthuizen (213) and Darren Fichardt (213) were among other South Africans to make the 54-hole cut.
African News Agency (ANA)