Cristofer Blomstrand celebrated his 26th birthday in great style at Randpark Golf Club on Saturday, with a brilliant 10-under-par 62 to transport himself into second place after the third round of the Joburg Open.
The dazzling display of golf by the Swede featured two eagles and eight birdies and was the best third round by far, a breezy day on Firethorn seeing Shubhankar Sharma shoot the next best score of 65 to give himself a five-shot lead over Blomstrand.
But there was no spoiling Blomstrand’s happiness as he put himself in line for a great result in just his second tournament as a full-time European Tour member.
“It was a really nice birthday present, my putter was great, I gave myself lots of chances and I holed them. It’s going to be fun playing in the last group in the final round and I need to play good golf for all four rounds and then the rest will take care of itself,” Blomstrand said.
One of the last qualifiers from this year’s European Tour Qualifying School, Blomstrand missed the cut in last weekend’s Mauritius Open and was not happy with his game coming to Johannesburg.
But he managed to take his mind off his troubles and reaped massive rewards on Saturday.
“I was struggling with my swing and I was not happy how I was hitting the ball, so I just tried to think about something else and there were no problems today,” Blomstrand said.
Erik van Rooyen will carry the load of local expectation after he shot a two-under-par 70 on Saturday to go into Sunday’s final round on 14-under-par, six behind leader Shubhankar, and tied for third with Englishman James Morrison.
The South African, who began the day two off the lead and was in the final group with Shubhankar and Tapio Pulkkanen, dealt with the pressure of a tricky day very well, especially after he bogeyed two of his first three holes.
“It was definitely the trickiest day this week out there, it was quite windy and the course played a lot different, a lot of it being into the wind today. So I’m happy with the way I played, obviously I would have liked to have shot something a bit better, but sometimes you don’t have those freeflowing days when you shoot 62.
“There are days when you’re not at your best, and you just have to knuckle down and shoot under-par. I kept my focus and composure, especially after putts on 10, 11, 17 and 18 really could have dropped and two of those were lip-outs,” Van Rooyen said.
The 27-year-old from Johannesburg has been on the Sunshine Tour since 2013, with his only win being the Eye of Africa PGA Championship in February, but he has gained a load of experience in the last year playing on the Challenge Tour and travelling to countries like China, Oman, Kazakhstan and France.
“The Challenge Tour is very competitive and after knocking on the door a few times in South Africa, it has taught me how to win, how to play four solid rounds of golf. Winning the Eye of Africa was a big boost, it was a big step, but I’ve moved on.
“I’ve learnt a lot on the Challenge Tour, I’ve travelled a ton and it means I’m very well prepared for tomorrow,” Van Rooyen said.
But while Blomstrand and Van Rooyen were positioning themselves in very different ways, Shubhankar was capitalising on Pulkkanen slipping back after a 73, adding a superb 65 to his magnificent 61 in the second round.
“I’m really happy, I really wanted to play well because it’s tough to follow up a good score with another one. But I got off to a good start, I hit the ball close and I was very good at reading the lines on the green,” the Indian said.
The 21-year-old wasted no time in claiming the lead as he fired off four birdies in a row from the second hole, but he knows the rest of the field will be coming for him in Sunday’s final round, even though he has a five-shot lead.
“There are still some really good scores out there and I just want to stay within myself and play versus the course. People can still go low, there are seven and eight-under scores out there, so I just need to stay calm and hit good shots.
‘I don’t want to change my strategy, you can’t play safe on this course so you need to be aggressive, but not do anything stupid. But there are birdies out there,” Shubhankar said.