The Tshwane Open leaderboard is as jam-packed as the nearby N1 highway, with SaturdayÂs third round ending in a four-way tie for the lead, and as many as eight players within five shots of the lead.
For most of the day the round was in the hands of both Charl Coetzee and Mark Tullo. But after an almost two-hour storm delay, the flashes of brilliance matched those caused by the lightning.
Darren Fichardt birdied his final three holes at The Els Club Copperleaf for a 64 to head into the clubhouse as the leader on 16 under. Tullo signed off with a birdie at the last for a 67 and a share of the lead. Dawie van der Walt birdied two of his final three holes for a 67 to also join the lead. And Coetzee overcame the wobble of a bogey immediately after the restart and birdied 17 then parred 18 to also be amongst the leaders. And one shot behind them, Louis de Jager stormed in with a 65 where he birdied four of the last five holes.
ÂItÂs going to be a tough final round. ItÂs probably going to be a playoff,Â said Van Der Walt, who has now gone 54 holes without making a bogey, and who had to finish off four holes of his second round early on Saturday morning after a weather delay on Friday as well. ÂThe course is long, but itÂs pretty open so itÂs all about making putts.Â
A change in putting fortunes certainly made the difference for Fichardt, who used a mediocre 71 in the second round as fuel for his 64.
ÂI wasnÂt happy with my second round because it dropped me to four off the lead, and I was determined to catch that up,Â said the clear form player on tour at the moment after his win and seventh place in the last two weeks.
The delay also worked in his favour. ÂI had just come off 15 where I made a mess of things on my way to a par. So the delay gave me a chance to just calm down a bit, and in that time my putter seemed to warm up. I made three good birdies at the end there.Â
The delay had the opposite effect on Coetzee. He returned to immediately bogey the 16th, but responded with a good birdie on 17 and then came very close to a birdie on 18 as well.
ÂItÂs nice to have a bounce back like that after the bogey on 16. It always evens you up emotionally. But this is a new experience for me, and IÂm just doing my best to stay calm and enjoy it.Â
By Michael Vlismas