Jamie Donaldson fended off all challengers at the Nedbank Golf Challenge on Saturday and retained his three-shot lead by carding 67 for a total of 16-under-par after 54 holes.
“It was hard work out there, even when you are playing well. You can’t sit back for a minute, because every hole is difficult. It’s very important to stay in the present and keep hitting good shots,” he said.
The two-time European Tour winner knew that the world’s best were hot on his heels and had already plotted his approach to the final round on Sunday. He’ll need to keep up the pace to secure his first win at Gary Player Country Club, because second-placed Ryan Moore and Thomas Bjorn are within striking distance.
“This is a really difficult field,” said Donaldson. “It’s one of the best fields in the world. A lead in this field doesn’t really mean much. You’ve got to go out there and play really good golf – that’s what I’ll be aiming to do tomorrow.
“This is a great golf course and a great country. I’ve won twice on the European Tour so far, but every win is special. This would just be a little more special.”
The Welshman’s putter was hot during the cool, overcast third round and he drained putts as long as 40 feet over the front nine, where he picked up birdies at the fourth and fifth before turning in 34.
He leapt into the back nine with birdies at the 10th and 11th and added gains at the 14th and 15th, at which stage he looked to be running away with the tournament.
At the par-four 17th he made his first bogey in 24 holes and opened a window for his competitors.
“I was in between clubs off the tee at 17,” he said “I tried to draw a three-wood off the bunkers, but it stayed there and I went into the bunker. I played a pretty good one out of the trap and left myself not difficult a shot. It skipped on over the green and nearly went in the water, and it was a good up-and-down for five.”
Bjorn and Moore (left) both loomed on 13-under-par, but also in the hunt on 11-under were Thongchai Jaidee and former champions Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia.
Moore carded his second bogey-free round of the tournament on Saturday, working his way around in 67 shots to remain in second place for the second consecutive day.
Bjorn (right) rose from fourth place after carding 66 on moving day. He included an eagle three at the par-five 10th hole, tied for the low round of the day and secured his place in the final three-ball.
Garcia pencilled in an eagle and two birdies over his final five holes to reach the clubhouse tied with Jaidee on 11-under-par. Stenson hit two into the water at the ninth hole and made a double-bogey seven, but switched on his afterburners over the back stretch and made four birdies to join the tie for fourth.
Frustration mounted for Darren Fichardt while he made only pars through his first 12 holes, but birdies at the 13th, 14th and 18th made him the leading local in a share of eighth on eight-under-par.