Both Gary Hurley and Tom McKibbin experienced mixed fortunes in Saturday’s third round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek in South Africa, ultimately signing for one-under par 71s to remain locked at four-under for the championship.
Waterford native Hurley carded one birdie, one bogey and seven pars in his outward nine, before picking up back-to-back shots to start the back nine but failed to take advantage of the three par-5s on the inward loop. A disappointing bogey on the 13th – the first of the three – was the only blemish on the back side, but five consecutive pars to close out the round weren’t enough to see the DP World Tour rookie move up the leaderboard.
McKibbin’s 71 was a little less straightforward, with the Holywood man recording a double-bogey on the par-4 third, before bouncing back with birdies on the fourth and sixth holes. He immediately gave those shots back on the treacherous seventh and eighth holes, before parring the ninth to make the turn at two-over for his round.
Things improved considerably on the back nine, with a bogey at 12 the only black mark, but that was sandwiched by birdies at the par-4 11th and par-5 13th. Where Hurley failed to take care of the scoring opportunities coming in, McKibbin safely navigated the tricky holes and posted birdies at the 15th and 18th to card a topsy-turvy 71 of his own.
McKibbin will be paired with South African Darren Fichardt for his final round, while Hurley will play in a three-ball with more locals in Thriston Lawrence and James DuPreez in the group behind.
Meanwhile, Ockie Strydom leads the host nation’s challenge at the top of the leaderboard after the South African shot a course record-equalling 10-under par to tie Scott Jamieson at -15. An eagle and eight birdies saw Strydom get to 10-under for his round though 15, and there was an outside chance of shooting 59. A bogey at the par-3 16th ended any hopes of going sub-60, but two closing pars ensured that he’d occupy tomorrow’s final grouping along with Jamieson and Englishman Dale Whitnell who sits two shots further adrift.
Jamieson began the day with a three-stroke lead, but stalled on the outward nine, making the turn in one-over and trailing Strydom by four at that stage. Three consecutive birdies on 11, 12 and 13 saw the Scot tied at the top again, and five successive pars to close ensured that Jamieson – whose nine-under second round had set the new course record that Strydom then equalled – would be in the final pairing.
They are two strokes clear of the trio of Dean Burmester, Oliver Bekker and Dale Whitnell. Former champion Branden Grace is in a group just three shots off the lead.
Strydom, who has 19 runner-up finishes to his name, credits his caddie with changing his mental approach and leading to the kind of form that last week saw him set the course record at Blair Atholl during the Investec South African Open, and then challenging again this week for a maiden DP World Tour title.
“Jaris (Kruger) my brother-in-law has made a huge difference on the bag. We understand each other and he keeps me positive. He doesn’t just go for it out there, like I would always do. I’ve always played aggressively. If I could hit driver on a par three I would. Now I’m playing more strategically.
“This is a trophy you want, and to win here at Leopard Creek would be so special. The course is more beautiful than I’ve ever seen it. I’m staying in a house on the golf course. It’s so calm, and that always makes me play my best golf.”
Jamieson is equally determined to complete his love for Leopard Creek with a title on its fairways. “It’s my favourite week of the year,” he said.
The faster green speeds certainly tested the field on Saturday.
“When I saw the green speeds on the first tee box and it was something like 13.7 I thought, ‘Ok. Here we go’,” said Strydom.
“Luckily on the first green I hit a downhill putt about four feet past to get the hang of it. Overall my wedges were close and I didn’t go for dangerous shots. The course was set up quite tough but I hit it in the right places on these greens. Leopard Creek can’t be attacked. It’s either going to come to you and then if it does, well done. If it doesn’t, you’re in big trouble.”
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