SUN CITY – Italy’s Francesco Molinari showed here on Saturday that it is possible to go low at this year’s demanding Nedbank Golf Challenge.
The 35-year-old, who celebrated his birthday last Wednesday, bettered his Friday score by 10 shots when he posted a scintillating 65 at the Gary Player Country Club yesterday afternoon to shoot straight into contention at the tournament.
He is tied fifth at three-under 213 after three rounds, five off the lead set by Scotland’s Scott Jamieson, after making seven birdies in a blemish-free round.
On Friday, Molinari made only two birdies to go with five bogeys for a 75, while in his first round on Thursday, there were four bogeys and three birdies in a round of 73.
Molinari said after his 65 that he is delighted to be in with a chance going into today’s final round. “It’s golf, I can’t explain it,” he said about his turnaround.
“I was actually laughing yesterday because I couldn’t hit the ball off the tee. I went in the bushes so many times, my arms are full of scratches.
“It was a tough round on Friday and actually amazing that I was only three-over, because it could have been much higher.
“What can I say... I’m thrilled about today. I wasn’t expecting it, and I just don’t know what to expect tomorrow. Let’s see which Molinari shows up.
“I’ll do my best though to try be aggressive. The key is keeping the ball in play off the tee because I am actually putting well at the moment.”
Molinari will be very aware that last year’s champion, Alex Noren, came from being six behind the leader on the final day to win the 2016 tournament by six strokes after posting a 63 on the Sunday.
“Yes, there was a big swing on the final day last year, so it will be amazing (if that happened to me as well) after the first two days I’ve had here,” said Molinari. “I just want to try gain some spots on the leaderboard and finish well.”
Twelve players, including Branden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Haydn Porteous, are within six shots of Jamieson, so there are several players who will have gone to sleep last night believing they can pull off a “Noren” today to win “Africa’s Major”.