Grace eases clear ahead of final round in Joburg Open

Branden Grace made five birdies in his final six holes in the third round of the €1,3-million Joburg Open being played at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club to take a three-stroke lead into the final round.

He completed his third round early on Sunday morning after rain and darkness ended play the day before, and he followed his run of three birdies from the 13th with two more on 17 and 18 to close his third round in a fine seven-under-par 65 on the tough 6,995-metre (7,650-yard) East Course.

“We got a bit unlucky with the weather yesterday,” he said, “but I was nice and fresh early this morning, and I’ll take that start to a day any day.”

His 17-under-par total for 54 holes led England’s Richard Finch and George Coetzee who were on 14-under-par, with South Africans Michiel Bothma and Jbe’ Kruger a further stroke back.

Finch stumbled on the 17th where he made bogey, while Coetzee parred his way home.

And, while Grace was easing clear at the top, his cousin Bothma chipped in for eagle on the 18th to get into contention.

“I was hoping for that all of last night,” laughed Bothma. “I’d left myself with about an eight-footer on 17 for par, and drained it this morning. I said to my caddie if we could finish par-eagle, it would be fantastic, and it happened!”

Grace will approach the final round much as he has the first three. “I’m hitting the ball well, and I’m putting really nicely, which is a bonus for me at this stage,” he said. “I’m going to try and do the same thing I’ve been doing the whole week.”

Coetzee will use the same strategy: “Sometimes you’ve just got to ease the ball up the fairway,” he said. “It’s about waiting for the chances to come along, and not making mistakes along the way.”

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