Cool, calm, collected Hennie in contention

Hennie Otto made a triple-bogey seven on the ninth on Saturday in the third round of the South African Open Championship at Glendower Golf Club.


It meant he turned in level-par 36 after worked so hard to get to nine-under-par for the tournament and three-under for his round as he worked hard to get in touch with the leaders.


There are those fans who remember a Hennie Otto who would have tossed his putter into the greenside water – and maybe even his bag too – before walking to the nearby parking lot, getting into his car and heading home if he made a triple-bogey at such a critical juncture.


“You’re not far wrong,” he laughed when that proposition was put to him after the round. “It‘s a bit different these days. I know I’m playing well and that makes a difference. I’m not there yet and I think I can still improve.”


The old Otto, if he had carried on with his round, would have moped his way around. But he suggested to his playing partner Attie Schwartzel that they wipe the slate clean. “I said to Attie on the 10th, ‘Let’s see if we can make some more birdies on the back nine.’ And it worked!”


Otto roared home in an astonishing 29 as he reeled off birdie after birdie – missing out only on 10 and 14. “I hit them close and that makes a difference. You hit close, you hit the right yardages and the putter works,” he said.


So what happened on nine? “I hit it behind a tree and had no shot,” he said of his tee shot. “Then I punched it out to exactly the yardage I wanted. The greens are spinning and I decided to hit a low shot, but I came out of it and spun it into the water.”


So he was lying five on the green and two-putted for seven. “I knew that triple bogey was going to cost me,” he said. “I’m working on my little mental lapses during the game, and if I get that out of my game it’ll be nice.”


He was worried that the lapse would allow the leaders to get too far ahead of him, but he ended up on 13-under-par, just two behind the leader Charl Schwartzel, and one off the pair in second, Morten Orum Madsen of Denmark and Italy’s Marco Crespi.


And that leaves him in prime position to charge: “Three, four, five ahead, that would be okay,” he said. “Six would be too far.”


Unless he has another back nine like he had in the third round. “I’ll take today’s back nine any day,” he said. “We’ll see what Glendower gives me. In 1997 I won the Freddie Tait (for leading amateur) here. It’s one of the best courses around.”


And if he makes progress on keeping his cool, who would bet against him being in the hunt. “They say you mature at 40, so I’ve still got three years to go!” he said.


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