Goosen widens the gap

Retief Goosen will take a two shot lead in to Sunday’s final round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City.

Retief Goosen will take a two shot lead in to Sunday’s final round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City – but in truth, it could, nay should have been a four to five shot lead if his putting had been anywhere near to the awesome standard of his tee-to-green play.

Goosen missed at least three putts from less than four feet he normally would have holed with his eyes shut had he not suddenly become so tentative with his short putts that he was actually decelerating during his putting stroke.

But such was the remarkable quality of his driving and even more so his iron play at the long, tough but windless Gary Player Country Club on Saturday, his five-under 67 and tournament total of 204 was enough to enable him to double his overnight lead to two heading into the final round.

This thanks partly to the 28-footer he holed from from the fringe of the ninth green for eagle.

It would certainly have helped the Goose sleep better on Saturday night knowing that he was two shots clear of dangerous pursuers Robert Allenby of Australia and Masters champion Angel Cabrera of Argentina.

Both fired 68’s to Goosen’s 67.

Perhaps the story of the day, however, was Nick Watney’s heroics.

The young American Ryder Cup star matched the course record, his nine-under-par 63 equalling the mark set a year ago in the first round of the tournament by Henrik Stenson.

On that occasion the tall Swede never looked back and went on to win.

Watney’s round was flawless and included nine birdies.

It could have been 11 – but for putts that went breathlessly close to giving him two closing birdies on 17 and 18 and with them, possession of the new course record.

Instead of five, it would also have taken him to within three shots of Goosen.

Allenby, in the meantime, had two bogeys on his card, and Cabrera one, and both spent a lot of time shaking their heads in frustration at approach shots which kept coming up shorter than they would have liked.

England’s Ross Fisher shot the next best round after Watney, his six-under 66 lifting him to a share of fourth with defending champion Stenson who was two-under 70 in a frustrating day which saw him miss some simple putts.

Tim Clark recorded his best round of the tournament, his four-under 68 taking him to 209 and a share of sixth with Watney.

It was a day on which no-one went over par, and that included the last-placed Richard Sterne, who had a magical run of four birdies in succession from the fourth to the seventh, before a double-bogey six on the eighth stopped him in his tracks and he carded a two-under 70 to be one-over for the tournament.

He would probably not have been last had Northern Ireland’s ailing Rory McIlroy not withdrawn before the third round with a stomach ailment which tournament organizers say he believes he picked up during the World Cup at Mission Hills in Shanghai, China last week.

McIlroy flew home on Saturday.