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Thursday, January 21, 2021

Caldwell stuck in the mud as Nienaber hits the front in Joburg

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Jonathan Caldwell was unable to create any moving day momentum as South African Wilco Nienaber put himself on the brink of a maiden European Tour title as he heads into Sunday’s final round of the Joburg Open with a one-stroke lead at Randpark Golf Club.

Clandeboye professional Caldwell recovered from two early bogeys with two birdies in an uneventful even par round of 71 to remain at three-under par and in a share of 44th. He trails 20-year-old South African Nienaber by 13 strokes after the home favourite signed for a third round of 67 in Saturday’s wet weather to top the leaderboard on 16-under par. His nearest challenger is Denmark’s Joachim B Hansen following an impressive 64 in the difficult conditions.

South African Brandon Stone also posted a 64 to join a group of players on 11 under and including countrymen Jacques Blaauw and Shaun Norris as well as England’s Richard Bland. Nienaber overcame a difficult start in which he was one over for his round through the first five holes, and then settled into his rhythm with five birdies thereafter.

“It felt like a struggle, but I holed a few crucial putts that kept the momentum going,” he said. “But I enjoyed it a lot out there. It was an interesting day with umbrellas going up and down, and rain tops going on and coming off. But my caddie Jason (Scheepers) has been really good. It felt like he had more than two hands at times because he was carrying so much.

“The final round is going to be great. It will be the first time I’m in that situation and I’m just going to embrace it and enjoy it.”

Hansen is looking to become only the second Danish winner of the Joburg Open following Anders Hansen in 2009. He surged through the field with a front nine of 29 including an eagle and four birdies, and then added a bogey and two birdies on the second nine.

“It was one of those days where the umbrella went up and down about 15 times, but I kept a cool head out there. I played well with some good iron shots. I’ve played well on this golf course before and I like it here,” he said.

Nienaber’s power game, though, has given him a definite advantage this week, and the rest of the field are well aware of what they need to bring to Sunday’s final round.

“There are holes out here where he’s got an unbelievable advantage,” said Bland. “He played behind us and some of the tee shots he was hitting on the back nine – it’s not really a fair fight. He’s only going to move forward and we’re going to have to try and catch him.”

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