Zander Lombard one clear of Louis Oosthuizen at Nedbank Challenge
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 16/11/19 3:19pm
Zander Lombard retained his lead after the third round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge as home favourite Louis Oosthuizen stayed hot on the heels of the leader in Sun City.
Lombard recovered from dropping three shots in as many holes as he approached the turn to salvage a battling 72 and remain at 11 under par, one clear of Oosthuizen and Thomas Detry following several changes at the top of the leaderboard over the back nine.
Oliver Wilson made an impressive charge with a 67 that lifted him to eight under and within three of the lead, while Lee Westwood fired a 69 to ensure he would head into the final day with a realistic chance to defend his title at the Gary Player Country Club.
Lombard was two ahead at the halfway stage and made a steady start to day three with five straight pars, but he then bogeyed the sixth and got into deeper trouble two holes later and ran up a double-bogey six to relinquish his advantage.
But he hit back with birdies at nine and 10 and picked up two more at the 14th and 15th to regain the outright lead, only to go long with his tee shot to the par-three 16th and slip back to 11 under as Detry birdied to join Lombard at the top of the leaderboard.
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However, Detry was unable to save par at the last as Lombard closed with a cast-iron four to stay on course for his first European Tour victory that, by his own admission, has "been a long time coming".
"I was three over after the eighth, and I had a good fight back to get it back to level par," said the 24-year-old. "Then I flushed a six-iron on the 16th and made a sloppy bogey. But, all in all, I'm still in the lead. I've got to stay positive and really looking forward to tomorrow.
"I don't want to sound cocky, but it's been a long time coming. I've really made big strides in how I do things on and off the golf course. It's nice to get some feedback and some results from the hard work."
Detry had looked the more likely 54-hole leader when he followed a steady, outward 35 with three birdies in four holes immediately after the turn, but the Belgian then pulled his drive deep into the trees via a big bounce off the cartpath at the 14th, a mistake that led to a double-bogey seven.
He responded with birdies at the next two holes, but he found sand off the tee at the last and came up short of the green with his second, from where a clumsy chip ran 15 feet past the flag and he would have to settle for a two-putt bogey and a round of 69 that could have been a few lower.
Oosthuizen's bid for his first victory of 2019 remained a genuine prospect despite enduring a "scrappy" third round as he mixed three birdies with two bogeys in a 71, and the former Open champion will be determined to rediscover the form that swept him to a 63 on the opening day.
"Very scrappy," was his blunt assessment of his third round. "I was not on top of the irons and not hitting it really close enough. Can't expect to make birdies from a long ways all the time, so I'll come out tomorrow and find that swing I had on Thursday.
"I need to give myself more chances on the greens, decent chances for birdies, not from 30, 40 feet away all the time. But I'll probably be aiming a bit more towards the pins tomorrow and just try and put a little pressure on him. You know, just keep in play and keep in touch."
Wilson stormed into contention with a seven-birdie effort which saw him vault into a tie for fourth with Marcus Kinhult (70), while Westwood will be looking to emulate his come-from-behind victory 12 months ago, when he started the final day three off the lead before a 64 carried him to a three-shot triumph over Sergio Garcia.
Westwood birdied three of the last five holes in his 69, his encouraging finish getting the veteran to within five of Lombard alongside Race to Dubai leader Bernd Wiesberger, who returned a solid three-birdie 70.