Gar­cia still hav­ing fun in Sun City

The Herald on Sunday - - SPORT - BY TREVOR BAI­LEY

SER­GIO Gar­cia con­tin­ued his remarkable re­cent run of form as he opened up a t wo- shot lead head­ing into the fi­nal round of the Ned­bank Golf Chal­lenge in South Africa.

The Spa­niard’s play in the early part of 2018 was so poor that some saw him as a risky se­lec­tion for a Ryder Cup wild card but he has not looked back since be­ing se­lected by Europe cap­tain Thomas Bjorn.

He fin­ished in the top 10 at the Por­tu­gal Masters, won three points in the vic­tory at Le Golf Na­tional to be­come the com­pe­ti­tion’s all­time high­est points scorer and then suc­cess­fully de­fended his ti­tle at the An­dalu­cia Valder­rama Masters.

The 2013 Masters cham­pion led af­ter days one and two in Sun City and a third-round 71 moved him to 10 un­der, two shots clear of fel­low Ma­jor win­ner Louis Oosthuizen.

Eng­land’s Lee West­wood was then at seven un­der along­side Bel­gian Thomas Detry and Finn Mikko Korho­nen, with Ross Fisher a fur­ther shot back.

Gar­cia said: “I thought it was pretty good. The course is play­ing dif­fi­cult, but I felt like prob­a­bly I didn’t get much out of my round. I felt like I was quite con­sis­tent.

“Maybe I could have been a lit­tle bit more ag­gres­sive but I gave my­self a good amount of chances. Un­for­tu­nately, the putts didn’t want to drop but at the end of the day, shooting un­der par, still in the lead, I’m happy with that. I’m just go­ing to keep try­ing to do the same thing.

“It’s go­ing to be tough, there’s no doubt about that. But it’s great to come with some good mo­men­tum, play­ing nicely and in the lead. It should be a fun day.

“I think if I can man­age to shoot some­where in the 60s, maybe 70 might be enough.”

Gar­cia, a win­ner at this event in 2001 and 2003, birdied the par-5 sec­ond and hit a stun­ning ap­proach into the third for back-to­back birdies and a three-shot lead.

He got in tree trou­ble on the 13th but birdied the 17th af­ter an­other ex­cel­lent ap­proach be­fore send­ing his sec­ond into the stands for a clos­ing bo­gey.

Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open cham­pion, made two birdies and two bo­geys to lead the home charge af­ter a 72 while West­wood, win­ner in 2010 and 2011, signed for a 69.

“It was tough for me,” Oosthuizen said. “I didn’t play well. I re­alised early on that it was a round I needed to keep to­gether and not re­ally blow my­self out of the tour­na­ment. I hung in there nicely. A lit­tle bit of a stupid er­ror on 14 but, other than that, the way I was play­ing to­day, I’m very happy to be two be­hind.

“I en­joy play­ing with the leader. It’s what we play for to be in that spot, play­ing the last group on a Sun­day. I just need to go out and fire at pins and hope­fully have a good round.”

West­wood will be hop­ing like­wise. “I think it re­quires a lot of pa­tience be­cause the breeze is chang­ing, and you do get some strange things hap­pen­ing out there be­cause of where it is,” he said.

“I’ve al­ways en­joyed putting on th­ese greens. Some­times you get some big break­ing putts. It re­minds me in a way of Au­gusta the way you have to tackle it. You have to play away from pins and some­times you have putts that you don’t want or leave in a spot where you can’t get it up-and-down.

“It’s al­ways lovely be­ing in the last cou­ple of groups in this tour­na­ment, the crowds are al­ways very en­thu­si­as­tic.”

Fisher, mean­while, dropped eight shots in his last four holes on Fri­day but re­cov­ered with a thir­dround 67.

In the quest to stay in the hunt for the Race to Dubai, Li Hao­tong and Lucas Bjer­re­gaard both need a win but were 10 and 14 shots back re­spec­tively, while Rory McIl­roy – who needs a top-two fin­ish – was at level par.

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