It’s hard to quibble when the 54-hole leader last made a bogey 41 holes ago, and that’s exactly the position in which England’s Graeme Storm finds himself after the third round of the BMW SA Open proudly hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni.
Storm fired a five-under-par 67 to reach 17-under for the tournament on Saturday at Glendower Golf Club to head into the closing round with a three-stroke edge over world number two Rory McIlroy. South Africa’s Jbe’ Kruger and England’s Jordan L Smith share third spot, a further shot back.
‘I am just really pleased that I kept the momentum from yesterday and played really nicely and holed some good putts,’ said Storm. ‘I knew it was going to be tricky coming in because the wind picked up on the last few and I don’t hit it as far as the other boys but I managed to play well enough.’
Storm seemed imperturbable throughout the round as McIlroy seemed to be intent on throwing the kitchen sink at him in an attempt to wrest the lead from him – and the Northern Irishman paid the price with bogeys on nine and 18, and a missed birdie putt on 10 which he would ordinarily have sunk.
He managed his way round the course admirably, racking up a streak of 23 successive greens hit in regulation – 18 in the second round, and the first five in the third. That was precisely the kind of precision that gives a player a chance around the Glendower layout.
Storm grabbed his chances on all four of the par-fives, and made his other birdie of the day on the par-four seventh – where McIlroy thrilled the crowd with a great nine-iron which pitched and spun back into the hole for eagle. ‘It was a perfect yardage – 160 yards, just a little bit of breeze and it was just a nice sort of controlled nine-iron in there, so it’s always nice when good shots like that end up in the hole – it’s a bit of a bonus obviously,’ said McIlroy.
Kruger made things difficult for himself by lacing a round of seven birdies with four bogeys as he carded a three-under 69. ‘I’m missing fairways, missing greens but I’m putting well and that definitely helps,’ he laughed. It looked for a while as if he was going to drop completely off the pace, but four consecutive birdies from 12 to 15 saw him come roaring back – only for him to drop another on the 16th.
It all sets up for a thriller from McIlroy as he attempts to chase down Storm in the final round. ‘I wish I was a little bit closer to the lead,” said McIlroy. “Graeme’s three shots ahead of me at the minute so it would be nice to be within one or two but get off to a fast start tomorrow and it will be interesting.’
Storm is not concerned about what will be coming his way. ‘I have never played with Rory before and I know him really well so it will be a lot of fun,’ he said. ‘I’m not sure how many fans I will have compared to him but we will have some fun out there.’
And Kruger is relishing the challenge too. ‘I think it will be cool with all the fans out there following him,’ he said. ‘It’s amazing for South African golf and I think all of us embrace it.’