His trousers made it seem he had lost a bet on Saturday, but Colin Nel was able to celebrate his birthday with a faultless four-under-par 68 to be one shot off the pace after the third round of the Lion of Africa Cape Town Open.
Nel, clad in a pair of trousers with a South African flag motif, found himself on seven-under-par 209 after leader Mark Williams made two double-bogeys on his way home and saw the five-stroke lead he held at halfway dwindle to just the one as he carded a three-over-par 75 at Royal Cape Golf Club.
ÂIt was a kind of birthday wish for me that morning IÂd be happy with two or three-under-par,Â said Nel, Âand to finish four-under is a cherry on top.Â
On a day on which the wind gusted and rain squalls made life unpleasant, his error-free round was an anomaly as the only one without a bogey.
ÂIt was tough out there today. It was a grind. My goal today was to come out and try not to make any bogeys and I managed to do it,Â he said. ÂThe last two holes tested me but IÂll take it Â I was happy with it.Â
Those last two holes showed the deft side to his game, as he was wayward with his approaches to 17 and 18 and he needed to chip close enough to make sure of par. ÂThey were two good chips and two good putts which was perfect,Â he said. ÂMy short game has been good the whole week. IÂve had a bit of an oopsy-daisy every now and then, but for the most part it has been pretty good.Â
Williams was not too upset about the loss of his big lead. ÂTwo holes, two bad shots,Â he shrugged. ÂIt cost me but I tried to just put it behind me. IÂve got 18 holes tomorrow and IÂm looking forward to coming out and making every shot count.Â
Behind the leading pair, Christiaan Basson made his third consecutive 70 to be two strokes off the pace, and that was in a round that was not without its fair share of adventure. He made two long putts Â one for eagle on the seventh and the other for birdie on 16, and then he splashed spectacularly out of water left by the rain in a lateral hazard on the 18th to make bogey.
ÂIt didnÂt feel like bogey after I got it out of there,Â said Basson. ÂI just hope they caught that on television,Â he laughed.
For Nel, who has yet to win on the Sunshine Tour Â as has Williams Â itÂs going to be a nerve-wracking final round: ÂIÂve got some nerves about being near the top. I suppose you have to have a few. I felt it coming down the stretch today, so having those two good up-and-downs settled them down and made it positive for tomorrow,Â he said.
Williams is as positive: ÂThe tournament begins on the back nine on Sunday,Â he said. ÂIf someone had said to me IÂd have a one-stroke lead going into the final round, I would have taken it.Â
Basson, on the other hand, has two wins on the Sunshine Tour to his name. Experience could be decisive.