“It was definitely tougher out there today. It was give and take a little bit and at the end of the day 69 is what I got out of it. I’m not disappointed – it’s what I needed to do,” he said.
The 2011 Masters Champion had moments of brilliance – including a 120-metre approach at the 10th that stopped two inches from the cup – during a tough day for scoring in Ekurhuleni.
An eight-time winner on the European Tour, Schwartzel is yet to lift the SA Open trophy. At 15-under-par after 54 holes he was closer than he’d ever been. With Italian Marco Crespi and Dane Morten Orum Madsen hot on his heels in a share of second on 14-under, Schwartzel must come out firing on Sunday to secure the win.
“To be fair, I didn’t make enough birdies to really pull away,” said the South African. “These guys can play… they don’t have their names on their bags for nothing. You can never take anything for granted.”
The second hole played second-easiest at Glendower on Saturday and Schwartzel made the 35th birdie of the day at that hole to begin his scoring for the third round. Impressive iron play at the sixth and eighth resulted in further birdies and the 29-year-old looked set to go deep.
Schwartzel’s shot of the day was his approach at the 10th, which led to a tap-in for birdie.
“The 10th probably played easier than the rest today, because I could clear all of the bunkers with a driver. I hit a beautiful drive down there and had 117 yards in. I hit a little sand wedge that nearly came back into the hole. It’s always nice to have those length birdie putts,” he said.
A tough day with the flat stick meant the world number 22 struggled to score on the back nine and his birdie at the par-five 15th was immediately negated when he made bogey one hole later.
While Crespi and Madsen hung tough, Hennie Otto made his move. The 2011 SA Open champion shot 29 on the back nine and jumped up into sole fourth.
Otto has fond memories at Glendower and relished the chance to once again contend in his national open.
“I’ve won other tournaments as well, so it’s not like my SA Open win means that I’ll win it again. I’m looking forward to this and next week, my game is nearly there and I’m keen for tomorrow. I have good memories and in 1997 I won the Freddie Tait here, so it’s nice to play Glendower again,” he said.
But in his way stood Schwartzel, who has a twinkle of determination in his eye and tees off last on Sunday.
“There’s nothing wrong with the way I’m playing, but you’ve really got to hit some good golf shots to make a lot of birdies around here. Tomorrow I’ll have to play a really solid round if I want to win,” he said.