Thoughtful Schietekat plots his way to 3rd round lead

Neil Schietekat was altogether more thoughtful on Saturday as he plotted his way to a three-under-par 69 at Ebotse Golf and Country Estate to move into a one-stroke lead after the third round of the Sunshine Tour’s Gauteng Championship.

After his second-round heroics with a 10-under 62, when the wind came up at Ebotse, Schietekat knew he was in for a grind and he plotted his way carefully around a course which can be treacherous to stay in front of a chasing pack that was snapping at his heels all day.

“I kind of knew that after a 62, it was going to be grinding day for me,” he said. “And with the wind wreaking havoc out there, I still enjoyed it. I like playing in a little bit of wind, so it was still a good day.”

After a bogey-free round the day before, it almost seemed surprising to see his card with three dropped shots on it, but he did more than enough to offset those with three birdies on each nine. Importantly, two of those came in quick succession on 17 and 18, as he quickly shut down any thoughts his competitors might have had of taking a lead into the final round.

“There were a couple of silly mistakes,” he said, “but with the wind grinding on you, you eventually let up and you’re going to give a bogey away. But I was proud of myself on the back nine to pull a couple back.”

Jbe’ Kruger is his nearest pursuer, after a five-under 67 put him in second place, and MJ Viljoen was also five-under in the third round to be in third heading into Sunday on 14-under, two behind Schietekat.

“I didn’t really keep an eye on who was doing what today,” said Schietekat. “I might have a look tomorrow on the last two holes, but on Saturday, you’ve just got to stick to your guns and do what you have to do.”

Part of sticking to his guns is knowing when to get aggressive with the wind making tough pin positions even tougher. “There were a couple of pins where it might have looked like I had gone for it, but I hadn’t,” he said. “On 17, I ended up left of the pin and I didn’t mean to be, but I made birdie so that was okay.

“I was saying to my caddie out there that I’ve always struggled with the soft iron-shots. In the wind, you have to play a lot of soft shots, and I was very impressed with myself with the soft shots into the wind and with the wind off the left, which I don’t enjoy so much. But I committed to it, and I hit some good shots.”

Behind the leading three, the best round of the day came from Ockie Strydom, who signed for a seven-under 65 to move to 13-under for the tournament in a share of fourth with Martin Rohwer.

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