SA's Erik van Rooyen. Photo: Turkish Airlines Open

JOHANNESBURG – The value of an experienced caddie was never more evident for South Africa's Erik van Rooyen than in the third round of the Turkish Airlines Open at the Royal Maxx Montgomerie course on Saturday.

The 29-year-old Van Rooyen – who scored his maiden European Tour win in the Scandinavian Invitation this year – started moving day in a tie for 25th on 137 following opening rounds of 70 and 67.

He picked up shots at holes one, three and four – the latter a big par-5 over water where he hit the green in two. "So it was a nice start, but then the putts weren't going in,” Van Rooyen said.

“A bunch of pars followed before I made a really stupid bogey at 10 from 118 yards out. It was a bad mistake and when I also dropped a shot at 12, I really got down on myself.”

In stepped Van Rooyen's caddie and confidant Alex “Feely” Gaugert.

The American is one of his closest friends and a former teammate when the two attended the University of Minnesota in the US. Gaugert, a professional golfer himself, also campaigned briefly on the Sunshine Tour.

"Feely really knows the game. He knows me. He knows how I tick. Walking down 13 he had a really important chat with me to calm me down. He did such a great job; monumental in fact,” said the South African. “I ended up making birdies at five of the last six holes. I can honestly say if it wasn't for Feely that wouldn't have happened.”

With a bit of counselling from his psychologist-bagman, Van Rooyen was able to sign for a 66 that moved him swiftly up the leaderboard to 13-under-par 203 and joint seventh.

He is definitely in the hunt going into the final round, albeit five back of leader Matthias Schwab of Austria, who has a three-stroke lead. And his confidence is up for next week's Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City.

If Van Rooyen was at peace with the world at the end of his round, the same could not be said for countryman Justin Harding, who began the day in joint sixth spot on 134.

In terms of body language, Harding gives the impression of being one of the most laid-back golfers on the circuit.

Waiting for the other players in his group to hole out on the green, for instance, he invariably stands with left hand on hip, broom-handle putter in right hand, and right foot crossed over left foot. Mr Cool. He looks so relaxed, as if he hasn’t a care in the world.

Well, it didn't exactly work out that way Saturday. He did birdie holes 2 and 4 but gave those shots back at 5 and 8. He then birdied four of the next five holes only to suffer the torment of three straight bogeys. At the par-5 18th he drove it in the trees, pitched out, found the green for three and holed a 10-footer for birdie.

An erratic, roller-coaster round of 70 for a 12-under-par 204 54-hole aggregate. At peace? Relaxed? No, more like tormented. He is tied 10th going into the final round.

Compatriot Zander Lombard also had a blistering day at the office, firing a flawless 66 that netted the Pretoria a share of 17th on 10-under-par 206.

“It was really one of those great rounds where I was in control of the ball throughout,” Lombard said. “It was pretty flawless and to go around with no bogeys and six really good birdies was good for the soul.

“I played this course in a practice round against the French back in 2012, but I couldn’t remember much about it. The key here is to stay patients. The birdies are out there, but you can’t force it. If they don’t tuck the pins too much on Sunday and I can keep the same mind-set, I could post another low one. That’s the kind of game I want to take to Sun City.”

Richard Sterne shot a second successive 72 to finish on two-under, while Christiaan Bezuidenhout carded 70 and Justin Walters 68 to tie for 64th on even-par.  George Coetzee, however, plummeted to 70th after a round of 77, courtesy of a pair of birdies, two bogeys and two doubles.

African News Agency (ANA)