Sterne, Fisher battle for Joburg Open glory

(pic: Catherine Kotze)

Richard Sterne and Trevor Fisher Jnr will take their third round battle into Sunday’s final round of the Joburg Open when they tee off tied for the lead at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.

The two golfers shared the lead going into Saturday’s third round, and neither was willing to give way as they finished the round still locked at the top of the leaderboard, this time at 19-under-par.

Their nearest challengers are five strokes back, including Charl Schwartzel who made a good par at the last after an adventurous trip into the trees and hitting the scoreboard with his third.

But the matching 68s that both Sterne and Fisher carded was a glimpse of how they mirrored each other’s games on Saturday.

Both birdied the first to get off to a good start. Sterne then went one ahead with a birdie on the sixth. But after their birdies on seven, Fisher birdied eight and nine as well to turn one clear of his playing partner.

His back nine started poorly though with successive bogeys, and Sterne’s birdie on 11 put him two clear. Fisher responded with birdies on 12 and 13 to draw level again, and both bogeyed the 15th and birdied the 18th.

“It was pretty good going out there,” said Sterne, who’s starting to feel the mental and physical pressure of chasing a victory for the second week in succession.

“It’s quite draining for two weeks in a row, but I’d rather be here than in the middle of the pack. But the heart is pumping quite fast out there,” he said.

Fisher certainly felt it as well, especially when he took the lead into the back nine and then made his two bogeys.

“A bit of nerves set in there. You try not to think about the lead, but it’s there in front of you. I was a bit jumpy with the swing and wasn’t waiting at the top, so I hit a few bad shots there. But I came back nicely with a few birdies. It’s just a feeling, and you’ve got to try and feel comfortable out there as much as possible.”

Both players were at one stage as much as six shots ahead of the field and admitted it felt like match play out there.

But with Jaco van Zyl, Felipe Aguilar, George Coetzee and Schwartzel all within reach on 14-under, Sterne and Fisher know their focus will have to extend to beyond just their two-ball on Sunday.

By Michael Vlismas

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