JOHANNESBURG – Home town favourite Louis Oosthuizen put on a short game exhibition to open up a three-shot lead at the South African Open at Randpark Golf Club on Saturday and set himself up for a first success in the tournament.
Major winner Oosthuizen produced a masterclass of mid-range putting and bunker play as his four-under-par 67 took him clear of Zambian Madalitso Muthiya, Matt Wallace of England and overnight leader Charl Schwartzel in the European Tour event.
Oosthuizen, who has not won a tournament in two years, picked up two shots in his first 10 holes and recorded three birdies on the back nine, despite windy conditions, to race ahead before dropping a shot at the 17th.
The 36-year-old had posted nine birdies in an opening round 62 on Thursday but slipped to two behind the leaders at the halfway mark after a second round 70. He has a three round total of 199.
“It was tough with the windy conditions. I hit a few bad drives but the putter rolled nicely. I played solid, pretty good,” Oosthuizen said.
“I’ve been putting well for a long time now and today the makeable ones went in.”
Masters winner Schwartzel carded a third round 72 to drop off the top of the leaderboard but the potential of chasing his good friend offers hope of an exciting final round on Sunday.
The 35-year-old Muthiya, ranked 1,330th in the world and with career prize money of only 26,014 euros ($29,593.53), was level par for the day as he kept alive his hopes of a fairytale success while Wallace hit six birdies but suffered three bogeys on the back nine in carding a 68.
There are a further six players bunched on eight-under-par, including veteran Ernie Els who was 10-under before dropping shots in his final two holes.
The 49-year-old Els won the last of his five SA Open titles in 2010 (and his fans are out in full force!)
Founded in 1903, the SA Open Championship is one of the oldest national open golf champs in the world.
The competition ends on Sunday.
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Ken Ferris)