Bezuidenhout on the march to SA Open glory

Dec 5, 2020 | Featured, Sunshine Tour

He’s made bogey just twice this week so far, and that kind of consistency saw Christiaan Bezuidenhout stretch out to a five-shot lead after the third round on Saturday of the South African Open Championship at Sun City.

Bezuidenhout carded a third successive five-under-par 67 at Gary Player Country Club, with his only bogey coming on the par-three third – just as the only other one did in his opening round on Thursday. But six birdies saw him draw ahead of Dylan Frittelli and Jamie Donaldson, who carded a two-under 70 and a level-par 72 respectively to take up second spot ahead of the final round.

It was a day when Bezuidenhout’s round could have ended in tears as he battled to control his accuracy off the tee in the latter stages of the round. He made some superb up-and-downs from greenside bunkers, and holed so clutch putts to keep up the inexorable momentum he seems to have built as he pursues the title all South African golfers dream of winning.

He started with a birdie on the first, and after the dropped shot on the third, he settled into his work on the layout which is being played with the nines in reverse order to the familiar sequence from the Nedbank Golf Challenge. He made birdies on six and seven to turn in two-under.

At that point, he had just a one-stroke lead over Donaldson, but the Welshman dropped shots on 10, 11 and 16 to end up falling into the clutches of the pursuing Frittelli who made two birdies on his way on before dropping a shot on the 18th to slip into the share of second with Donaldson who birdied the last.

What was impressive about Bezuidenhout’s round was his course management. He seldom took the risky option, which meant he took par on two of the par-fives, and he steered clear of dangerous pin positions – until the final few holes, when a series of apparently slightly pushed drives and some less than pin-point approaches left him with some tidying up work to do.

But he made sure to rub in just how effective such an approach can be on the 18th as he eschewed the gung-ho approach of trying to land the ball on the narrow green surrounded by water in search of an unlikely eagle (or, at best, a relatively simple birdie)> Instead he laid up and hit a delightful third close to the hole with perfectly judged backspin. So the final birdie was an easy one and kept him five clear.

In a share of fourth place were JC Ritchie and Dean Burmester on nine-under, six behind Bezuidenhout. At one point, Ritchie made five birdies in a row from the fifth to the ninth. Together with his opening birdie and a seventh on the 11th, he looked set to be the one who might be able to hunt down Bezuidenhout. But two poor tee shots on 12 and 13 saw him slip back. A birdie on 18 saw him get his charge back on track. Burmester, on the other hand, endured a frustrating round of four bogeys and five birdies for his 71, and unless he learns to be more accepting of some poor fortune, he is going to drive himself to distraction.

For Bezuidenhout, who is fresh from his victory last week at Leopard Creek in the Alfred Dunhill Championship, tomorrow’s final round offers a rare opportunity to win back-to-back titles. Given his approach, it seems foolhardy to believe he won’t do it.

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