Not even a pair of bogeys was enough to allow the pair who shared second place – former world amateur number one Matthew Fitzgerald and Scot David Drysdale shared that spot on eight-under-par – to get a closer look at what it might be like to lead at Glendower Golf Club.
It was a hot putter which gave the 2011 Masters champion the turbocharged start which saw him sign for a six-under-par 66 to go into the final round with a five-stroke advantage.
He sank a 45-footer for his first birdie of the day, and that made him feel it might be his day. “I didn’t make one like that the whole of last year. That was just the start I was looking for,” said Schwartzel. “I wanted to put some daylight between myself and the others, and, looking ahead to the final round, I’d rather be in my position than in the other guys’.”
Despite the good putting and the good score, it was a strange old round with some really poor shots from Schwartzel – off some tees and to approach some greens. And he also managed to three-putt on the par-five 13th to record his second bogey of his round, which was strange given the quality of his putting earlier.
“It was a bit of a mixed bag out there,” he said. “I’ve found something for my swing, and I hit some great iron shots and good tee shots. A few careless things too, like three-putting a few times. I’m not swinging it like I was two years ago when I won a couple of tournaments by 10 and 11 shots, but I’ll take this over what I had two months ago.”
Fitzpatrick had an extraordinary closing nine, after reaching the turn in one-over 37. He made four birdies and an eagle three on the 13th to race home in 30, his 67 leaving him in a share of second with Drysdale.
They had a one stroke edge over fourth-placed Lee Slattery, who fired the round of the day with his seven-under-par 65.
Slattery, like Schwartzel, has recently become a father, and it has impacted on both their their games. “I wouldn’t change anything,” said Slattery. “I’d sacrifice missing my card by one shot to keep all of the good things that happened to me last year.”
And Schwartzel said, “It was a bad year professionally, but it was one of the best years of my life.”
He is only too aware that even though a five-stroke lead is to all intents and purposes a pretty substantial one, it can evaporate in a heartbeat.
“I’ll keep doing what I have been doing,” he said. “The fairways are so narrow, that it’s just as difficult to hit them with a two-iron as it is with a driver. So I’ll keep using driver to get it out there, and trying to make a few putts.”
Catching him should take a really good round from his opponents and a poor one by him.