Schaper and Van Velzen on top in Investec SA Open

Dec 2, 2023 | Featured, Sunshine Tour

From DP World Tour

Home favourites Jayden Schaper (pictured above) and Ryan van Velzen will share the lead heading into the final round of the Investec South African Open Championship at Blair Atholl Golf & Equestrian Estate.

Schaper made six birdies in a round of 67 on Saturday to get to nine under on day three and was joined by countryman Van Velzen, who birdied three of his first five in a 70.

Another South African in Louis de Jager was then a shot off the lead after a 70 of his own, one ahead of overnight leader Jesper Svensson, Italian pair Francesco Laporta and Matteo Manassero, Frenchman David Ravetto, German Matti Schmid and South Africa’s Dean Burmester.

Schaper burst onto the scene at the January 2020 staging of this event when he secured a top ten as an amateur, achieving his best DP World Tour finish to date later that season when he finished second at the Alfred Dunhill Championship.

Another top 10 at his home open last year contributed to a strong start to the season as he gained a full DP World Tour card for the first time and he is now going in search of a maiden win.

“I have some good memories at this event and also at this golf course,” he said. “If you told me this morning, I would have taken it with both hands.

“I’m in a good rhythm, in a good space, everything is just feeling good. I’ve got a good team behind me and good support and it’s always good to be at home.

“I’m going to stick to the same game-plan and keep doing what I’m doing. There’s nothing to change so why not just keep it the same and see what happens?”

Van Velzen (pictured below) is playing his second full season on the Sunshine Tour, having tasted victory at the Limpopo Championship in April.

The 22-year-old is playing just his fifth DP World Tour event and made his first cut at last week’s Joburg Open, where Schaper finished in the top ten.

“I think I played unbelievably today,” said Van Velzen. “I hit it very good. I played smart golf, didn’t go at flags and kept it on the right side of the hole. There was a couple of three-putts but I played very nicely.

“I stayed very patient, I made lots of pars in a row and I was fine with that. I wasn’t going to chase birdies to those tough flags because that’s how bogeys are made. I just kept it solid.

“It was a lot of fun out there with the crowds following us and the crowds chanting my name, which is cool.”

Van Velzen put approaches inside six feet on the second and fourth – the latter with the help of the greenside slope – and a two-putt birdie on the par-five fifth had him in double figures and the solo lead.

A three-putt on the sixth dropped him back into a share and De Jager joined him at nine under.

The 36-year-old birdied the second and holed a 15-footer on the third but dropped a shot on the eighth.

He bounced straight back with an approach to close range at the ninth and then made a two-putt birdie on the par-five 10th to share top spot.

A three-putt at the 12th from De Jager put Van Velzen on top on his own but Schaper joined him as he recovered from an opening bogey.

The 22-year-old took advantage of the par-five fifth, 10th and 13th, adding gains at the fourth and ninth before a lay-up on the last left him 12 feet to join the lead.

A Van Velzen three-putt at the 16th had Schaper on top on his own but an 18-foot right-to-lefter on the 17th saw him hit back.

Swede Svensson birdied the last to stay in touch despite a 74 and Ravetto also held a share of the lead at one point as he carded a 72.

Schmid holed out twice in a 71, Laporta carded a 69, Manassero battled to a 73 and last week’s winner Burmester registered the lowest round of the day by two shots with a 65.

Italy’s Renato Paratore was at six under, one clear of home duo Oliver Bekker and Jacques P de Villiers.

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