Daniel van Tonder came storming through the field on Saturday with a nine-under-par 63 to hit the front of the Sunshine Tour’s Players Championship hosted by Dainfern Golf Estate.
The man who won four times last year after the return to tournament golf from the COVID-19 induced lay-off heads into Sunday’s final round in a three-way share of the lead with Jaco Prinsloo and Oliver Bekker on 18-under-par. Van Tonder picked up 10 birdies and one bogey as he raced up the leaderboard from seven shots off the pace at the halfway mark.
Halfway leader Jake Roos carded a level-par 72 to stay at 16-under in a share of fourth, two off the pace. With him was Jacques Kruyswijk who shot a six-under 66. Sweden’s Fredrik From, Alex Haindl, Anthony Michael, Michael Hollick and Jean Hugo were in a share of sixth on 15-under.
“It wasn’t too bad,” said Van Tonder laconically after his round. “That bogey came from a three-stab on the fifth, but other than that, I don’t have too much to complain about.”
That three-putt probably came as a result of leaving a lot of putts short in the opening two rounds. “I told my wife that I was going to go for everything this time,” said Van Tonder. It worked. He had 31 putts in the opening round, 29 in the second and just 25 in the third, with 12 one-putts. “A couple of times, like on the eighth, where I lipped out for eagle from just off the green, the ball went four metres past the hole, so I only made par there on a par-five, so it could have been even better.”
Prinsloo signed for a six-under-par 66 with a bogey on the par-three fourth, and he had 31 putts during his round after hitting 17 of 18 greens in regulation. If he’d been just a bit better on the greens, he could have been in front.
Bekker couldn’t get things going on the front nine, carding a one-under 35 as he went out. But he remained bogey-free for the whole round, coming home in 32 for his five-under-par 67.
But, inevitably, that was topped by Van Tonder’s sparking 29 on the homeward nine which included an eagle-three on the 18th. He’s nine-under for the tournament on the par-fives and that comes from an approach that he will take into the final round.
“I’ll be going for birdie on every hole,” he said. “There are obviously lots of chances for everybody out there, and I’m not one to hold back.”
It could get interesting.