A bogey on the sixth and a double-bogey on the eighth really grated young Zander Lombard at Sun City on Saturday, but the 24-year-old showed impressive composure as he held things in check and calmly completed a level-par round of 72 to keep himself in the lead after the third round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
Lombard began the penultimate round with a two-stroke lead after his superb 65 on the second day, but after trouble off the tee on the eighth he surrendered his lead to Louis Oosthuizen.
The Pretoria golfer bounced back, however, with a birdie on the par-five ninth courtesy of a delightful touch on his chip from the fringe and another on the 10th. Further birdies followed on the 14th and 15th holes and a bogey on the par-three 16th, when he over-clubbed, was the only blemish as he came in with an excellent two-under 34.
“I was three-over after eight holes so it was a good comeback, I didn’t make any real mistakes after that except for when I flushed a six-iron on 16. So I was solid after being a bit shaky on the front nine, I was able to keep cool even though the wind was swirling and there were tight pins, and I’m still leading the event so there are a lot of positives.
“It was tougher today, the pins were hard to get close to and it was a bit frustrating. I just had to remember not to force it, which is what I did on the front nine. It wasn’t about being aggressive today, I had to play smart. I’m so comfortable on the course because I know where to hit and where not to hit, and there are certain pins you have to leave alone. You have to show patience,” Lombard said after his round.
On Sunday his mental strength and composure will be subjected to an even greater test. Oosthuizen and young Belgian Thomas Detry, who has shown an impressive ability to put misfortune behinh him, are both just one shot behind. While Lombard, as local a golfer as you can reasonably expect to get, will have considerable support from the gallery, probably half the crowd will be supporting the ever-popular Oosthuizen.
“I was fighting for the lead the whole time in Ireland and Spain [he shot 70 and 69 respectively in the final rounds to finish in the top-10 of both tournaments won by Jon Rahm], where the crowd eventually won it for Rahm, and I feel like I’m mature enough to handle the pressure and win one now.
“It would be a dream come true because every South African child who loves golf dreams of winning the Nedbank Golf Challenge, and this course is like a home from home for me. Putting the money and prize of moving up into the top-50 of the Race to Dubai aside, South Africans love this tournament and hopefully I can give the fans what they want and hopefully pull it through,” Lombard said.
Oosthuizen, who began the tournament in amazing fashion by overcoming kidney stones and shooting 63, knows he has to improve on his last two rounds of 72 and 71.
“It was rough today, I played poorly, scrapped my way around and I was just trying not to lose it. But I am still in it and I need to try and find what I had in the first round. I’ll probably do some drills on Sunday morning because I need to get closer to the pins. I’m not having a great swing and I’m not getting close enough to get chances for birdies.
“I was just plodding along today, fighting the whole time and fortunately I didn’t make any big mistakes. But I don’t feel great over my irons and hopefully I’ll feel better over the ball tomorrow,” Oosthuizen said on Saturday afternoon.