A disappointing finish to his third round dashed Tom McKibbin’s hopes of being in contention on Sunday at the Joburg Open in Johannesburg.
McKibbin moved into the fringes of contention on nine-under after birdies on the first third and tenth holes but a chastising spell saw him drop five shots in eight holes to drop down to four-under and a share of 29th place.
The Holywood native would have been looking for at least another three birdies coming home to remain in touch with Dan Bradbury who remains on course for a wire-to-wire win.
However, the 19-year-old carded a brace of bogeys on 11 and 12, a double on 15 and a closing bogey to come home 39 and sign for a three-over 74.
23-year-old Bradbury continued to make the most of a sponsor’s invite as he carded six birdies and two bogeys on Saturday to move to 17 under par and hold off a charging Sami Välimäki.
Bradbury began the third round with a one-shot advantage and, although he was briefly overtaken in the early stages, led the way for most of the day before playing partner Välimäki joined him at the summit after 13 holes.
The Englishman’s bogey at the 16th handed Välimäki the outright lead with two holes remaining but the pendulum swung back Bradbury’s way at the last as the Finn surrendered a double bogey after getting into significant tree trouble.
Välimäki was alone in second place on 16 under after carding an eagle, six birdies, one bogey and a double bogey in his third round.
Home favourite Daniel van Tonder sat two shots further back in third, two ahead of fellow South Africans Casey Jarvis and Christiaan Bezuidenhout.
Bradbury, playing in just his third DP World Tour event this week, led by one shot after 36 holes, with the chasing pack unable to catch him when the weather-affected second round resumed on Saturday morning.
The 23-year-old safely parred the opening two holes of his third round but was overtaken at the top of the leaderboard as playing partner Jarvis made a birdie-birdie start to get to 14 under.
Teenager Jarvis stretched his advantage to two shots with a monster eagle putt at the third, with Bradbury notching his first birdie of the day there from close range to keep him within reach.
Välimäki, having followed up an opening birdie with a bogey on the second, also eagled the third after recovering from an errant tee-shot with a stunning second before holing his lengthy putt from the edge of the green.
There was a two-shot swing in Bradbury’s favour at the fourth as the Englishman holed his birdie try from around four feet, while 19-year-old Jarvis surrendered a bogey to join him on 15 under.
Bradbury hit the front on his own with a five-foot birdie putt on the sixth hole before making it back-to-back gains with a curling 15-footer at the seventh.
Välimäki remained two behind after matching Bradbury’s birdies at the sixth and seventh, and when Bradbury dropped his first shot of the day at the par-three ninth, the Finn was just one back going into the back nine.
Bradbury got the shot back with a birdie from around 15 feet at the tenth, with Välimäki also taking advantage of the par five to stay one off the lead.
Välimäki joined Bradbury at the summit with a birdie at the 13th before the pair both holed their birdie tries on the short 14th to reach 18 under and leave the chasing pack a long way back.
Välimäki produced a stunning recovery from an errant tee-shot as he and Bradbury each made pars at the 15th, and he took the solo lead after Bradbury bogeyed the par-three 16th.
There was late drama as Välimäki got into tree trouble off the tee at the 18th and sprayed his second shot behind a medical tent and a number of trees.
He went on to card a double bogey, while Bradbury closed his round with a par to return to the top of the pile.
Bradbury said: “I’m really, really happy with my situation. It’s nice when you’re hitting good golf shots and enjoying it. Yeah, everything’s just good at the minute.
“I just knew that if I just played my own game and kept playing solid golf, I’d be somewhere near where I need to be at the end of the day. And that’s how it’s worked out.
“I’ve never really been (in this position) before but I’ve won tournaments – college golf kind of set me up for that, so that’s quite nice.
“I don’t feel out of place, which is the biggest thing. It’s just keeping a positive mindset and believing you should be here and you deserve it.”