Branden Grace is well placed after a great third round of the SA Open. Photo: @Sunshine_Tour via Twitter

Well, it’s all set up to be a thrilling final round of the 107th edition of the BMW SA Open at Glendower on Sunday.

South Africa’s leading golfer and current Nedbank Golf Challenge champion, Branden Grace, made sure Sunday will be one to savour after firing an impressive six-under-par 66 in the third round Saturday to be just off shot off the pace, set by England’s Chris Paisley.

Grace caught fire on his back nine on Saturday after only posting a 71 in his second round which dropped him down the leaderboard but five birdies for an inward nine of 31 boosted his chances of bagging what would arguably be his biggest title to date on Sunday.

In all, the winner at Sun City last November recorded seven birdies and one bogey and before the turn looked to be slipping out of contention. But then he found the form that saw him make three eagles in a stunning first round of 65.

“I got frustrated out there,” admitted Grace about his slow start. “I hit the ball superbly through 13 holes but couldn’t get it in the hole. The putting stroke was probably a bit quick but I stayed patient and eventually the birdies came.

“I can get on a little streak like that ...when you make one you kind of feel that surge of adrenaline and you run with it.”

Grace said he had drawn on his experience of winning at Sun City last November during Saturday’s late surge. “Through 13 holes I think I was five behind but I told myself to stay positive. I was also four or five behind going into the last day at Nedbank so i thought if I could get the margin pretty small I could still have a chance. Now I’ve played myself right back into it and I’m really excited going into Sunday.”

Joint overnight leader Paisley on England followed up rounds of 66 and 65 with a steady two-under-par 70 on Saturday to give him a one stroke lead going into the final round. After making seven and eight birdies in his first and second rounds respectively, he managed just three on Saturday and then dropped a shot at the par-four 16th hole – his only blemish on the day and only his third bogey all week.

Chasing Paisley and Grace on Sunday will be a three-man group at 12-under-par, three off the pace. They are South African Jacques Blaauw who recorded a six-under 66 that included seven birdies, an eagle and three dropped shots, the USA’s joint first round leader Chase Koepka, who shot a third-round 68, and joint second round leader, France’s Adrien Saddier, who was 10 shots worse on Saturday than his score on Friday, going around in 73 blows on Saturday.

Blaauw said his round would boost his confidence for Sunday’s push. “It feels good. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, just want to do my thing, but this is great for the confidence.”

In sixth place and four off the lead is Darren Fichardt, who shot up the leaderboard on Saturday thanks to a thrilling eight-under-par 64 that included nine birdies and one bogey. He’ll be confident he can catch the leaders and give himself a chance on Sunday.

“I am very happy, I just wish I had more holes to play because I feel I could have birdies every hole today,” said the 2017 Joburg Open champion, who was also frustrated with a slow start. “I made a par on two which feels like a bogey and made a bogey on five which was terrible, too.

“I’m looking forward to Sunday. If you’re in the fairway the course is unbelievable ... it’s second to none. There are low scores out there, but you just have to avoid the rough.”

Five shots back and also still very much in the hunt if they can get something going on Sunday are Denmark’s Jeff Winther, and the South African duo of Trevor Fisher Jnr and Jacques Kruyswijk.

IOL Sport

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