Schwartzel in control
South African Charl Schwartzel has a second successive victory in his sights after another flawless display in the Joburg Open.
South African Charl Schwartzel has a second successive victory in his sights after another flawless display in the Joburg Open on Saturday.
A glorious third-round 64 takes Schwartzel into the final day on 18 under par, four ahead of Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke.
The 25-year-old won the Africa Open last Sunday with a 20-under total and the only time he has dropped a shot at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington this week was a double bogey at the 12th hole of his opening round on Thursday.
That was a careless four-putt six, but he has certainly made up for that since.
There were a dizzying 21 changes at the top of the leaderboard before Schwartzel, one behind England’s David Lynn at halfway, took control over the closing stretch.
While a rain delay of more than two hours appeared to upset the rhythm of others, the European Tour money list leader had three birdies in four holes from the 12th.
Putts of four, 20 and 15 feet took him three clear, he rolled home a 30-footer on the 17th and two-putted the par-five last to complete an inward 30.
The last player to win back-to-back European Tour titles was German Martin Kaymer at the French and Scottish Opens last July.
Schwartzel is currently 51st in the world and another victory would make it odds-on that he will earn a Masters debut at Augusta in April.
The top 50 the week before the event are guaranteed places in the opening major of the season.
Clarke is now outside the top 100 and has not been to The Masters since 2007, but the 40-year-old, whose 63 on the adjoining West Course on the first day was his lowest Tour round for 11 years, was impressive again in shooting 67.
He shared top spot after birdies on the fifth, sixth and eighth and, after three-putting the next, came home in 33.
In third place, six behind, is 46-year-old South African Hendrik Buhrmann (69), while one further back are his compatriots Alex Haindl, James Kamte, Hennie Otto and Jaco Van Zyl, plus England’s Danny Willett.
The 22-year-old, a team-mate of Rory McIlroy at the 2007 Walker Cup, led after a fast start, but double-bogeyed the 12th and 15th to put a big dent in his hopes of a first professional win.
Two birdies in the last three repaired some of the damage and gave him a one under 70, but Lynn dropped from first to 20th with a 75.
The Stoke golfer, with only one victory in over 300 Tour starts, came home in 40 – 10 more than Schwartzel – after rain stopped play for more than two hours.
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