Keith Horne birdied his final four holes for a two-stroke lead in the Telkom PGA Championship on a day when almost everyone made a run at the lead, including a player who went from Âputt puttÂ to professional golfer in the space of 10 months.
Horne looked every bit the experienced professional he is as he carved out a patient 67 for the lead on 16-under-par 200 at Country Club Johannesburg on Saturday.
Darren Fichardt, Alex Haindl and second round leader Dean Burmester are his nearest challengers on 14-under, while James Kamte is in a group three off the pace.
But it was HorneÂs experience that shone through on Saturday as he had to weather a slow start. ÂIt was a patient round,Â he said. ÂI drove the ball well, but wasnÂt making any birdies out there. I tried to stay patient, and fortunately it finally happened on the last few holes. I felt like it was a bit of a struggle out there and I came through it with a 67, so IÂm feeling quite confident.Â
ItÂs a confidence built around his putting form, which has improved considerably with his use of a belly putter for a full tournament for the first time this week.
ÂIÂm feeling very relaxed with my putting, and that is filtering through to the rest of my game.Â
But on a course that yields some very low scoring, Horne admits he will be hoping for something even better in the final round.
ÂThere are a lot of players just a couple of shots behind me, so there certainly wonÂt be any defending going on in the final round. Anybody can shoot nine under in the final round. The course is there to shoot a low score on if somebody gets the putter going, so IÂll be doing my best to go as low as possible again.Â
At the age of 22 and leading a tournament for the first time in his career going into the third round, Burmester did well not to drop too far off the pace and closed with three straight birdies for a 70 that will do his confidence the world of good.
But one of the more remarkable stories of the day came from Morné Buys. The Free State professional produced a 65 that puts him right in the mix on 13-under, and which is just as amazing as his career.
Buys only started playing golf in 2003. He was a national age-group tennis player and Free State cricketer, but for various reasons decided not to pursue either.
ÂA friend asked me to join him for a round of golf. I told him it wasnÂt the game for me. IÂd only ever played putt putt,Â said the 33-year-old Buys, whose father Kobus and uncle Danie were both Springbok tennis players.
But his view of the game changed when he shot 85 the first time out. ÂTwo months later I was a plus-one handicap, and eight months later I turned pro.Â