Golf: Lombard recovers to keep nose in front at Nedbank Challenge

A photo taken on Sept 29 shows South Africa's Zander Lombard during the final round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland.
A photo taken on Sept 29 shows South Africa's Zander Lombard during the final round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland.PHOTO: REUTERS

SUN CITY (AFP) - South Africa's Zander Lombard recovered from a poor start to shoot a level-par 72 and retain the lead after the third round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge at the Gary Player Country Club on Saturday (Nov 16).

Lombard's 11-under total of 205 kept him one shot ahead of fellow countryman Louis Oosthuizen (71) and Belgium's Thomas Detry (69).

On a day when sub-70 scores were a rarity, Oliver Wilson of England soared up the leaderboard with a five-under 67 to share fourth place on eight-under with Sweden's Marcus Kinhult (70).

Chasing a first prize of US$2.5 million (S$3.4 million), Lombard saw his overnight two-shot lead disappear when he dropped three shots over the first eight holes, largely because of erratic tee shots on a demanding course.

But birdies on successive par-fives at 10 and 11 started his fighback.

Lombard, who lost his European Tour card in 2017 and had to survive qualifying school last year to regain his status, has yet to win on the tour.

If he can close out the win it will almost treble the career earnings of a player ranked 234th in the world. A finish in the top eight will earn him a place in next week's season-ending Tour championship in Dubai.

Detry is also seeking a first win and for much of the round, he maintained what he described as "stress-free" golf, in contrast to his roller-coaster second round when he suffered five penalty strokes in making 71.

Successive birdies at 10 and 11 put Detry in a three-way tie with Lombard and Oosthuizen before a magnificent 190-yard iron shot from a fairway bunker set up a birdie at the 13th to put him in the lead on his own.

At that stage he was the only player in the field not have dropped a shot during the round.

But a pulled tee shot on the par-five 14th bounced off a cart path into thick bush and Detry was forced to play three off the tee for the third time in two days.

He made a double-bogey seven, while both Lombard and Oosthuizen made birdies to be two ahead of the Belgian.

Detry fought back with superb iron shots to birdie the next two holes before he drove into a fairway bunker on the 18th hole, leading to another dropped shot.

Wilson said he was delighted with his round, which was bettered on the day only by Scottish rookie Robert MacIntyre, who shot 65 to climb into a tie for 21st place.

"It's not easy," said Wilson. "I had a few breaks but I played solid golf. I hit a lot of greens and kept it relatively stress-free."

Wilson's breaks included a chip-in at 15 and a long birdie putt at 17 which looked set to miss narrowly on the right of the hole before deviating off a pitch mark and going in.

Defending champion Lee Westwood had a solid round of 69 to move into a five-way tie for sixth place on 210. Also on six-under was Race to Dubai leader Bernd Wiesberger, who fired a 70.