He didn’t think he’d ever gone two rounds without a bogey, and Jaco van Zyl promptly pushed that boundary a bit further on Saturday as his third consecutive round without a dropped shot saw him finish the third round of the Eye of Africa PGA Championship with a two-stroke lead.
He has kept getting better in a tournament he has already won twice, opening with a 68, carding a 67 in the second round and then picking up six birdies on his way to a six-under 66 at Eye of Africa Golf Estate to go into the final round with a two stroke edge over Ireland’s Kevin Phelan and Dean Burmester.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever gone 54 holes without a bogey,” said Van Zyl. “It’s just about keeping it in play, hitting a lot of greens and making the odd putt. Every day has just got better so hopefully tomorrow we can keep on improving.”
While Van Zyl spent much of the day watching playing partner Burmester drive the ball prodigious distances and making two more birdies than he did, it was a level of consistency which professionals often only dream of that pushed him clear of his pursuers – and Burmester made three bogeys in between his eight birdies to hamstring his own run at the title.
Matching Van Zyl’s bogey-free 66, Phelan has set himself up for a tilt at the title. “As the tournament has gone on, I’ve got to know the course and that has an effect on the scoring,” he said. “There were a couple of holes on the first day that were playing downwind and I hit the ball to close for a decent approach, and that got sorted out. Being in contention is always good fun.”
Burmester is a player who has come to know that feeling only too well. He won four times on the Sunshine Tour last year, and has come close again already in 2016. “It’s been up and down the whole week,” he said. “The first day was really frustrating. Yesterday I played really nicely; today I played nicely again but I made three bogeys. I’ve got to cut those bogeys off my card, and hopefully that will mean I can hold a trophy again.”
Van Zyl has held the historic PGA Championship trophy aloft twice already, and he will prove a formidable obstacle for anyone to overcome. “I’m not going to change anything,” he said. “Someone’s going to be making a move, so I’ve got to get off to a fast start, make a few early birdies and take it from there.”