“My game plan is to hit good spots,” Swedish rookie Alexander Bjork said after his third round on Saturday at the Tshwane Open, and he finds himself in the sweetest spot of all heading into the final round at Pretoria Country Club – leading the co-sanctioned European Tour event.
Bjork has to share the lead on 13-under-par with Scott Jamieson, who was in the final two-ball with him on Saturday, as they both shot three-under-par 68s and both birdied the par-five 18th hole to pull clear of Dean Burmester and Jorge Campillo, who fired lovely six-under-par rounds of 65 to climb to 12-under-par, just one stroke back.
South Africa’s Burmester provided the highlight of the day for the appreciative crowd as he finished birdie-birdie, nailing a 25-footer on the penultimate hole, a short par-four, after sending his drive into the trees left of the green, and then completed a routine birdie on the par-five finishing hole.
“My game came together today and I managed to post a good score. It was maybe a bit frustrating not to pick up more birdies on the homeward nine. I thought the back nine played a little bit tougher, there were some seriously sneaky flags and you could short-side yourself and put yourself in a lot of trouble quickly. I played that nine a little safer,” Burmester said.
Campillo’s round was also a great effort, capped by an eagle on the last as he sank his chip from the bunker.
“It’s always nice to finish with a chip-in out of a bunker and it was a tough bunker shot. I thought I couldn’t hit it that close because I didn’t have much room and it was down the slope as well.
“I was thinking I need to make a few birdies coming in just to have a chance tomorrow, and I finished much better than I expected. So I’m in a good position for Sunday,” Campillo said.
None of Bjork, Burmester or Campillo have ever won on the European Tour and Finland’s Mikko Korhonen also has a great chance of claiming his maiden title as his 67 lifted him to 11-under-par, alone in fifth place and just two shots behind.
But it is Bjork and Jamieson who are in pole position and discretion was certainly Bjork’s friend on Saturday.
He sacrificed distance off the tee for the accuracy which is so necessary on this tight course and his only two bogeys came on the par-four 13th and 15th holes when his putting touch briefly deserted him.
“It’s a fairly short course so my game plan is to hit good spots and then attack with my wedges or irons, so I was very much playing irons off the tees. I had a good start, I played the first two holes perfectly for birdies and it was a solid round,” Bjork said.
Jamieson had some maddening close misses as well, especially on short putts, but he still managed to collect five birdies, three of them on the back nine, where he also had two bogeys.
“It’s been a little difficult to get the ball to the hole while putting. I’m not sure if the practice green’s a little quicker than the greens out on the course, but I’ve heard a few guys say they’re struggling to get the ball up to the hole and it’s certainly been the case for me,” Jamieson said.
Apart from his putting, the Scotsman was on-song from tee to green and certainly has the game to claim his second European Tour title, his previous win coming at the Nelson Mandela Championship at Royal Durban in 2013.
“I’m in a great position to go out and try and win the tournament,” Jamieson said.
England’s Oliver Fisher was on fire in the morning as he fired a tremendous nine-under-par 62 to charge up the leaderboard, joining countryman James Morrison (70), Australian Ben Eccles (64) and South Africans Thomas Aiken (69) and Peter Karmis (69) in a tie for sixth on 10-under-par.
South African Zander Lombard and American Peter Uihlein, who both shots 65s, are also not out of it on nine-under-par, but Pretoria Country Club, for all its doe-eyed beauty and tranquility, is bound to punish any golfers who push too hard in the final round or who are unwary.