Alexander Knappe takes a one-stroke lead into the final round of the 2023 Jonsson Workwear Open on 17 under par, as Tom McKibbin slid out of contention with a three-over 75.
After a delayed start at The Club at Steyn City due to overnight rain, the 20-year-old from Holywood began on the tenth, knowing that he’d have to go extremely low if he was to have any chance of capturing his maiden DP World Tour title, but a run of six consecutive pars was ended with back-to-back bogeys on 16 and 17 which effectively put an end to the title aspirations.
A double-bogey at the second rubber-stamped that, and he’d have to wait until the seventh – his 16th – to register his first birdie of the day. He’d add another at the last, but not before giving another shot back on the penultimate hole.
Meanwhile, Knapp was taking control. The German shot 65 to overtake 36-hole leader Nick Bachem who followed up rounds of 65 and 66 with a tidy 69, featuring all pars on the front nine before four birdies and a bogey on the way home.
Joakim Lagergren’s nine-under-par 63 was the best round of the week so far, and the Swede shared second place with Bachem, South Africa’s Hennie Du Plessis and Malaysia’s Gavin Green.
Knappe went out in 32 with two birdies in the first three holes and two in a row at the seventh and eighth.
Further gains at the 10th, 12th, 14th and 16th briefly took him two clear of the field and though he dropped a shot at the 17th, he remained in front as he seeks to follow up back-to-back top-ten finishes at last month’s Thailand Classic and Hero Indian Open with a maiden DP World Tour win.
He said: “I played nicely, almost hit every green I think. I could have been lower but then on 17 made one bogey – still, I’m a human being, I can’t be hard on myself.
“I had no strategy, to be honest, I just played golf and see how it ended up, and shot seven under which is nice!
“It will be the first time for me to lead a big event, I will assess my expectations tonight and enjoy the moment for now – it was a great round.”
Lagergren’s round featured six birdies in the space of eight holes around the turn, and nine in all, as he surged to the summit.
He birdied the fourth, sixth, seventh and eighth to go out in 32 and went one better on the homeward nine with birdies at the tenth, 12th, 13th, 17th and 18th.
The 31-year-old had been one off the lead on day one after a 65 and after following it up with only a level-par 72 on Friday, he was back on song on Moving Day.
He said: “I played really nicely today, my iron shots were a lot better than the previous two days.
“I hit it well off the tee as well and holed a few putts, so basically everything was pretty good. I hit a few poor wedge shots but other than that, flawless.
“It’s been a while since I was bogey-free, so that was nice. It’s always fun to be in the mix, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Du Plessis, like Knappe, has improved every round, following rounds of 69 and 66 with a 65 containing five birdies and an eagle three at the 16th. His only dropped shot of the week so far came on the eighth hole in his first round.
Green made an opening 66 followed by successive rounds of 67. Saturday’s effort saw him follow up a bogey at the fifth with three straight birdies and bounce back immediately again after another dropped shot at the 11th, before the 16th brought him a seventh birdie of the day.
First-round co-leader Martin Vorster finished eagle-bogey-birdie for a 68 to join a group sharing sixth place on 15 under.
Romain Langasque was alongside him after a round of 69 while Ewen Ferguson shot a second 66 of the week. The Scot had made five birdies before back-to-back bogeys at the 14th and 15th appeared to stall his momentum – only to regain both shots with an eagle at the next before adding a birdie at the 17th.
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