Charl Schwartzel was on course for his first title on the European Tour in a year on Saturday as the defending champion opened a two-shot lead after three rounds at the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
Schwartzel hit a five-under 67 to move to 13-under 203 and break clear of England’s Richard Finch (67) at Leopard Creek. Victor Riu of France was another shot back on 10 under after he also carded a 67.
Former Masters champion Schwartzel led after three rounds at the South African Open last weekend before slipping up on the final day. He carded five birdies and no bogeys to lead outright with a round to play at the Alfred Dunhill, which he won by a dominant 12 shots a year ago for his last European Tour win and only victory on the circuit since the triumph at the 2011 Masters.
Schwartzel’s co-overnight leader Morten Orum Madsen, the South African Open winner last week, slumped to a seven-over 79 on Saturday to slide down to a tie for 34th, 12 shots off Schwartzel’s lead.
After expressing his displeasure with the second-round pin placements at the Alfred Dunhill, Schwartzel avoided any slipups in his third round and has not dropped a shot since the 10th hole of his opening round.
“If I had really putted well today it could have been very low,” Schwartzel said. “The good thing is that I know it’s there. It very easily could have been low, but it was still a solid round of golf and this is still a tough golf course.”
Finch and Riu also put themselves into contention with five-under 67s, with Finch also avoiding any dropped shots and adding five birdies. Riu had six birdies and just a single drop on No. 18.
Frenchman Romain Wattel is fourth on nine-under and Denmark’s Soren Hansen fifth on eight-under.
South African Hennie Otto — second behind Madsen in the new 2014 Race to Dubai standings — is tied for sixth with England’s Ross Fisher on seven-under, five back from Schwartzel.