By Michael Vlismas for Sunshine Tour
Luca Filippi clung on to the lead after a tough third round of the Blue Label Challenge at the Gary Player Country Club on Friday and said he will employ the services of the same game-plan in the final round as he looks to improve on his runner-up finish in last year’s tournament.
Filippi netted just four points on Friday, but it was enough to take him to 34 points overall, six ahead of nearest challenger Keenan Davidse. Considering Filippi started the day bogey-bogey, and then had two bogeys in three holes on the back nine, he did well to keep things together and maintain his lead in the R2.7-million tournament that employs a modified stableford scoring system. Birdies are worth two points, pars zero and bogeys see one point deducted. Eagles are worth five points and double-bogeys cost three points.
Last year he was the chaser, his late charge for the title finishing agonisingly short as his eagle-putt on the last hole lipped out, but Filippi will now be the hunted on Saturday.
“Today was tough with quite difficult conditions. They call it the caddies’ graveyard on days like this with the wind swirling around, and after a rough start I was really glad to claw things back nicely,” Filippi said.
“Birdies are like gold on days like these here, and I was chuffed to get four of them to put me in a good position. I will stick to the same game-plan because in this format, especially with the wind and not knowing what it’s going to do, I need to give myself birdie chances. That will be key.”
After dropping shots on the par-five first and par-four second holes, Filippi managed to get the wheels back on the axle by collecting back-to-back birdies on the next two holes. Another birdie on the par-five sixth took him to four points at the turn.
Bogeys on 12 and 14, both par-fours, caused another wobble, and the 24-year-old said a birdie on the par-three 16th was a vital gain.
“That birdie on 16 was massive, it means I can sleep nicely. That hole is always tough because you can get the wind completely wrong there. Fortunately my caddie and I got it right, I hit an eight-iron from 171 metres and made a four-metre putt from the fringe above the hole,” Filippi said.
Davidse had two double-bogeys on the front nine, but regrouped well, ending with three successive birdies for a seven-point tally that saw him jump into second place on 28 points.
Rookie Jonathan Broomhead produced the round of the day, his 11 points taking him to joint third on 25 points with Ryan van Velzen (-1).
Sean Bradley also excelled on Friday with 10 points, taking him to joint fifth on 23 points, alongside Callum Mowat, who lost three points with a double-bogey on the last hole. First-round leader Yurav Premlall is also on 23 after an extraordinary round comprising 18 pars, for zero points.