Zander Lombard will take a one-shot lead into the final round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player after a gutsy level-par 72 on day three at Sun City.
The home hero entered the weekend at the seventh Rolex Series event of the 2019 Race to Dubai with a two-shot lead but was three over par after eight holes as he did battle at the top of the leaderboard with playing partners Louis Oosthuizen and Thomas Detry.
An excellent fightback had him back to 11 under and he will once again play alongside Oosthuizen and Detry in round four, with the duo sitting one back.
Swede Marcus Kinhult and England’s Oliver Wilson were then at eight under, two shots clear of a group of six players.
Lombard endured eight consecutive missed cuts between March and June but has found his form in some style in the second half of the season and is now in pole position for a first European Tour win at the event they call Africa’s Major.
He has two runner-up finishes on the European Tour and also some pedigree in the Rolex Series, with back-to-back top 10s at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
‘I’m still in the lead,’ he said. ‘I’ve got to stay positive and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.
‘I just couldn’t get it going today. I didn’t really make any mistakes, I just missed two or three fairways that really put me behind the eightball and you can’t attack this golf course if you’re not in the fairway.
‘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.’
An Oosthuizen bogey on the third extended Lombard’s lead to three before the 2010 Open Champion holed from the fringe on the fourth.
The leader holed a clutch putt for par on the fifth after a badly misjudged first effort but he could not do the same on the next and the lead was down to one.
He went right off the tee at the eighth and was forced to lay up, taking three putts from 67 feet for a double-bogey to leave Oosthuizen in the solo lead.
Lombard then played an exquisite chip to set up a birdie on the ninth and he was back in a share at the turn.
Detry had put a tee shot to eight feet for a birdie on the fourth and after joining his playing partners in birdying the par-five 10th, he holed a 15-footer on the 11th to make it a three-way tie at 10 under.
An approach to ten feet on the 13th handed him the solo lead but a double-bogey followed on the next after he found an unplayable lie off the tee.
Oosthuizen and Lombard both got up and down for birdie at the par five and Lombard made a 20-foot birdie at the next to lead by two as Oosthuizen dropped a shot after coming up short of the green.
Detry birdied the 15th from 12 feet and found himself back in a tie for the lead after putting his tee shot to seven feet on the next, as Lombard flew the green and dropped a shot.
But Detry could not get up and down after missing the green on the last, handing the initiative to Lombard heading into the final 18 holes.
Wilson birdied the four par fives with a gain on the seventh and bogey on the 11th before his round really came to life in the closing stages.
He chipped in at the 15th and then dropped a shot on the next after hitting a spectator’s open umbrella with his tee shot, before his long putt on the 17th dived left after hitting a pitch mark to hand him a 67.
Kinhult was three over after six holes but birdied the three remaining par fives, holed a long putt into the 17th and hit a stunning approach into the last to sign for a 70.
Defending champion Lee Westwood, Race to Dubai leader Bernd Wiesberger, Dane Joachim B Hansen, Finn Mikko Korhonen, England’s Aaron Rai and Australian Jason Scrivener were at six under.