Grace treads water as European Tour heads to climax

Dec 12, 2020 | Featured, South Africans abroad

Branden Grace was treading water somewhat on Saturday in the third round of the European Tour’s DP World Tour Championship as he carded a level-par 72 to head into the final round of the season-ending event at six-under-par.

That left him five strokes adrift of the lead shared between Race to Dubai leader Patrick Reed of the United States and the England duo of Laurie Cater and Matthew Fitzpatrick who were at 11-under. Four players were a shot back at 10-under – Robert Macintyre of Scotland, Norway’s Victor Hovland, the young Spaniard Adri Arnaus and the veteran Englishman Lee Westwood.

Grace started with a bang as he chipped in on the third after short-siding himself with his approach. He picked up another shot on the fifth, and then made par all the way to the turn. A birdie on 10 seemed to bode well for his homeward nine, but he gave that shot back with a bogey on the 12th.

That seemed to unsettle his game – his putting was looking particularly sharp – and despite a birdie on the par-five 14th, he limped home with three consecutive bogeys from 16 to 18.

The upshot was he slid seven spots down the leaderboard into a share of 12th, and he’s going to need another round like he had in the second when he signed for a 66  – and then some – to be able to chase down the leading trio.

Reed entered day three at Jumeirah Golf Estates with a two-shot lead and he had to work hard for a third round 71. Like Reed, Westwood will be crowned European number one if he wins on Sunday. “I’m trying not to really think about that, honestly,” Reed said. “If it happens, it would be unbelievable. It was always a goal of mine obviously to win golf tournaments but to win this one and also to win the Race to Dubai and be the first American would be amazing.

“We still have full 18 holes left and you can’t really sit back there and think as much about that as just stay in the present and try to play some good golf tomorrow.”

Brandon Stone was the next-best of the 10 South Africans in the field, his five-under 67 lifting him 15 places up the leaderboard into a share of 15th at five-under. He made an eagle, six birdies and three bogeys to set up a decent climax to his year as he is projected to finish inside the top 30 of the Race to Dubai should his good play continue in the final round.

Erik van Rooyen was also on five-under after a two-under, while Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Shaun Norris were on four-under in a share of 18th. Garrick Higgo and George Coetzee were on three-under, Justin Harding was on two-under, Dean Burmester on one-under, and Wilco Nienaber reversed some poor form with a third-round 67 to climb to level-par for the tournament and a share of 39th.

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