JOHANNESBURG – Charl Schwartzel's second consecutive round of error-free golf allowed him to take a four-stroke lead after the third round of the $1.87 million Joburg Open being played on the par-71 Royal Johannesburg and Kensington East course.
The tournament is the richest of the four Sunshine Tour events co-sanctioned by the European Tour, and is the fourth in the 2010 Race to Dubai.
Schwartzel carded five birdies on his way in on the 7,592-yard East course, having made two on his outward nine to sign for a 7-under 64 and move clear of the pursuing pack led by Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke.
Schwartzel kept his cool during a weather delay that lasted over two hours, and then went out and got five birdies in a display of golf which has left the rest of the field scratching their heads about how to stop him after he won the Africa Open last week.
“With two hours of waiting, I was sitting around thinking it would be nice to go round in four under for the back nine and get a couple ahead, and I managed to make it five,” he said.
It all began for him on 10, when he made a good up and down out of a bunker. He then hit a good 7-iron in to the 12th for a birdie on the 200-yard par-3.
“And then, all of a sudden, I started hitting a lot of good shots and converting the putts,” he said.
Clarke finished on 4-under 67 for a three-round total of 199, but he was not happy with his putting.
“I had two putts out of nowhere go in from 20 feet, but I missed some short ones, which was very frustrating,” Clarke said.
“I’ve had six weeks off, so I’m getting back into tournament golf. I played well in East London, but just couldn't score in the Africa Open, and now I have to play really well in the final round to catch Charl,” Clarke added.
It will not be an easy task, as Schwartzel’s confidence is high.
“I've probably felt in control of my game to this level before, but what has really changed for me is that I'm in control of my emotions,” he said. “I feel very focused out there, and I'm letting things happen instead of forcing it. It's probably a little bit of experience coming through. I think confidence can also play a big part in this. When you start playing well and you hole a few putts, you get very confident.”
Behind Clarke, Sunshine Tour veteran Hendrik Buhrmann shot a 2-under 69 to lift himself into sole possession of third on 12-under 201, with a group of five players on 11-under 202, including South Africa's Alex Haindl who had the round of the day with his 6-under 65.
Also on 202 were South Africans Jaco van Zyl, Hennie Otto, and James Kamte, with England's Danny Willett rounding out the group after he battled his way to a 1-under 70 following his opening rounds of 65 and 67.