He had no idea how long his monster putt for birdie on 13 was, but Trevor Fisher Jnr was precise in every other way on Saturday as he carded a brilliant bogey-free nine-under-par 63 to take the 54-hole lead in the Africa Open Golf Challenge.
He made seven birdies and an eagle to edge clear of the man who led for the first two rounds, England’s Matt Ford, who signed for a 69 in an impressive show of fighting off adversity. Fisher was a further two ahead of Jaco van Zyl, who battled to find the bottom of the hole on his way to a 68.
“It was a long putt; it was a big putt,” said Fisher of his 60-footer on the 13th. “It was tricky. It was uphill, and then it was downhill and hit had a big swing on it and then the hole was in the way.”
His game was a joy to behold, as it always is when it gets into the kind of groove it did at East London Golf Club. He gets himself into a space where the joy of playing is clearly evident, and then the shots seem to flow from his clubs.
“You don’t go out there thinking you’re going to shoot 63,” he said, “but if you’re in the moment and not counting your shots, and you’re not worried about your score, those sorts of scores are possible. I stayed focused today and it worked out well.
“Everything was going right today. Last week, I hit the ball well. This week I hit the ball well and I sank some crucial putts today. If those putts don’t go in, you end up shooting four-under instead of nine-under. I had one or two little mess-up, but I was lucky to get away with pars there.”
Ford, who only earned his European Tour card last November – at his 10th attempt, and with a job as a postman waiting for him should he fail – was not so lucky when it came to getting away with things. He made a double-bogey six on the eighth, and then a bogey on the par-four 14th.
But he bounced back from both those setbacks with the aplomb of a tour veteran, making three birdies in the five holes after the eighth – including a 55-foot monster of his own on the 13th – and then holding his nerve down the tough finishing stretch for pars all the way home.
Van Zyl, who was singing the praises of his putter after a second-round 66, managed to miss out on a number of seemingly makeable birdie attempts.
His start matched Fisher’s – with a birdie on one and an eagle on three – but he bogeyed nine, and that seemed to put him on the back foot. He picked up shots on 10 and 12, but, with the men ahead of him on the scoreboard throughout making eagle on 13, it was frustrating to not pick up anything else on his way in.
For Fisher, the final round will be about being patient while trying to pick up those shots that eluded his opponents. “I’ll play my own game and take it shot for shot” he said. “I’ll try not to get ahead of myself too much, because that is the challenge in itself when you’re leading an event.
“I’ve been close here a few times, so it really brings back good memories. I’ve been really close, so hopefully I can pull it off tomorrow.”