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.
‘GREAT EVENING‘: In the women’s singles in Rome, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova advanced, while Rafael Nadal swept into the quarters in the men’s singles Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Friday had to dig deep to advance to the semi-finals of the women’s doubles at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. The top seeds, who did not drop a game in their opening match on the clay courts at the Foro Italico, battled to a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 victory over sixth seeds Veronika Kudermetova and Katerina Siniakova in 1 hour, 39 minutes. The reigning Wimbledon champions saved nine of 11 break points and converted three of eight, winning 56 percent of points on their second serve and sending down two aces
KEY GOAL: Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei is now free to focus on taking her fourth doubles title of the year with Barbora Strycova; they are due to face Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya Taiwanese No. 1 Hsieh Su-wei on Monday returned to the court for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the WTA Tour, falling to a 6-3, 6-1 defeat to US Open quarter-finalist Elise Mertens, who made a solid transition from the hard courts in New York to the clay at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. “I’m not sure how well I adapted, to be honest,” Mertens told the WTA Web site. “I just feel like I might still be struggling a little. It was also [Hsieh’s] first match of the week, so that was a bit of an
’SO CONSISTENT’: The victory gave the world No. 1 and world No. 2 a 21-1 win-loss record and their fourth title of the season after successes in Brisbane, Dubai and Doha Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Sunday cruised to their fourth women’s doubles title of the season at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome in their first tournament back since the suspension of the WTA Tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The top seeds took just 63 minutes to complete a comprehensive 6-2, 6-2 victory over unseeded German-Romanian duo Anna-Lena Friedsam and Raluca Olaru at the Foro Italico. It was the Taiwanese-Czech pairing’s first outing since they won the Qatar Open in February. “After five months, you don’t know what to expect,” Strycova told the WTA Web site.
‘FUN TIME’: Denver’s Nikola Jokic said that his team would not accept that anyone else is better than them and the opposition need to play much better than they do Just about everyone had LA versus LA written in for the NBA’s Western Conference finals, but the resilient Denver Nuggets have crashed the party. Behind Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets advanced to the conference finals for the first time since 2009 to face LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. Game 1 is scheduled to be played tomorrow. This was no ordinary road. The Nuggets fell behind 3-1 in their first-round series against the Utah Jazz before bouncing back with three straight victories. Then they went down 3-1 to the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round before winning in Game 7