He’s led three times going into the final round of Sunshine Tour tournaments, and won on all three occasions, so Oliver Bekker (@TwisT1010) was happy to take a two-stroke edge after the third round on Saturday of the R3.75-million Telkom Business PGA Championship.
The 29-year-old from Stellenbosch carded an error-free six-under-par 66 to move to 14 under par after 54 holes on the Country Club Johannesburg Woodmead layout, giving him a handy cushion over JJ Senekal (@JJSenekalGolf) on 12-under after his own six-under 66 vaulted him up the leaderboard.
“Today was the best I’ve hit it the whole week,” said Bekker. “I didn’t make all the putts I had a chance of making, and I had a little bit of a stumble at 18 where I thought I could have picked up another shot, but at the end of the day, I’m really happy about the round.”
The ‘stumble’ was actually a par on the par-five finishing hole, after he pulled his approach left of the green, over hit his chip and then made a good two-putt from the fringe to rescue par.
That kind of sloppiness was not evident at all for the rest of his round, as he picked up an eagle on the third and four more birdies. “It was the first bogey-free round of the week,” he said. “I tweeted this morning that I hoped I could have a couple more birdies and a couple less bogeys today, and that happened for me.”
Senekal also had a bogey-free round for his 66. “I struck the ball very well,” he said, “and my putting’s unbelievable this week. I had 25 putts today, and that helps keep the scoring low.”
He felt a low round was out there after Wynand Dingle (@WynanDingle) carded a 63 in the second round, so he was up for the challenge of going low himself. “The game plan was to just try and hit fairways and hit greens and make putts,” he said, pretty much summing up how deceptively difficult it actually is to go low.
“The course is soft enough that you can go for flags that are tucked away, so a low score is definitely out there,” he said.
Senekal was a further shot clear of rookie Rhys West, 2007 South African Open champion James Kingston and seven-time Sunshine Tour winner Ulrich van den Berg who all positioned themselves to take a shot at the title in the final round.
Also in contention, four strokes off Bekker’s pace at 1-under, were Merrick Bremner, Vaughn Groenewald, Titch Moore and Darren Fichardt.
It’s going to be a merry old chase, because Bekker feels good about his game. “I’d hope I’ve been getting better all week,” he said, “because that would be really good for tomorrow. But you can never say with this game.”