It was a master class for 12 holes on Saturday as Tjaart van der Walt racked up eight birdies on his way to a seven-under-par 65 and a two-stroke lead after the third round of the Lion of Africa Cape Town Open.
His scorecard was flawless until a dropped shot on the 15th at the end of a notoriously difficult stretch at Royal Cape Golf Club, but he kept it all together for the rest of the round to edge ahead of Hennie Otto who led the tournament until the halfway mark.
“I putted well today,” he said as he reflected on a game that came together in a big way on a day golfers call moving day in tournaments as he moved to 13-under 203. “I think I had one chip-in, one putt from off the green – 23 putts, 24, technically – but I saw the lines and managed to make good strokes.”
His 65 came on top of two solid three-under-par 69s, and he chased down Otto, who held a four-stroke lead over him overnight within three holes as Otto made two bogeys and Van der Walt made two birdies as they set out on their round.
Van der Walt had a wondrous front nine: He made three birdies in a row twice – from the second to the fourth, and then the sixth to the eighth – and he very nearly made birdie on nine to turn in 29.
“I had a good feeling the whole day,” he said. “The front nine was special, and I left it in the jaws to shoot 29. Every putt I looked at was just dead-centre.”
He managed to play the way he did without hitting the ball particularly well either. “Did I hit it that well today? No!” he laughed. “Did I hit it well enough? Probably.”
An example of how everything went his way came on the 442-metre par-five 11th, where he didn’t play a shot on the fairway, but still managed to make his seventh birdie. “You know, 11’s a tricky tee-shot, and I got a bit of a bad break and my tee shot finished on an upslope,” he said. “I thought if I could just advance it, I might be able to have a chip.”
As it turned out, he hit it between the trees in the rough to the left of the green. “I had a decent look at the shot, and if I could get it on the green today, it looked like it was going to go in,” he said.
Otto wasn’t at his brilliant best like he was in the opening two rounds, but he still managed to bring it home in one-under for a total of 11-under. His card included five birdies and an eagle, but six bogeys dotted all over his scorecard at regular intervals hampered his progress.
He was three strokes clear of Jared Harvey who carded a fine 68 to move into third, while Doug McGuigan and Justin Harding were in a share of fourth at six-under-par 210.
Round of the day came from Gert Myburgh, who played his third round on his own after being the 73rd player to make the cut: His six-under-par 66 in the early morning vaulted him all the way from 73rd to a share of eighth ahead of Sunday’s final round.
Even that might not be enough to stop Van der Walt in the final round if he fires again like he did in the third. “We’re hoping that Tjaart the ball-striker will come back tomorrow,” he laughed.
If he does, he could end up with his maiden Sunshine Tour title in a professional career that stretches back to 1996.