George Coetzee produced one of the great rounds in South African Open history when he carded a course record 63 in Saturday's third round to place him only three strokes off the lead of Sweden's Henrik Stenson.
Coetzee goes into Sunday's final round on 13 under alongside Swede Magnus Carlsson, with Stenson leading on 16 under following a 69 at the Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate.
Saturday proved a busy day for the field as the suspended second round first had to be completed, and it ended with Stenson three clear of a determined Merrick Bremner.
But the third round saw Bremner drop off the pace with a 73 and Coetzee storm into contention with a round that is only one stroke shy of the lowest in SA Open history. John Bland carded a 62 in the first round at Durban Country Club in 1993.
"I just gave it the best I could and lucky for me I got the birdies I needed," Coetzee said of a round where he holed his second from the fairway on the par-four fourth and drove the green on the 318-metre par-four 10th.
Equally impressive was his ability to bounce back from two bogeys on the back nine and finish with birdies at 17 and 18.
"I felt I handled my bogeys a lot better than in the past. Before I would put pressure on myself to make birdie the next hole, but I just waited for my opportunities."
Stenson was frustrated by a game that wasn't as fluid as it has been the last two days. But his experience showed as he went from three ahead to one ahead to four ahead and finally three ahead in the round.
"I'm still in the same position even though I've got George and Magnus breathing down my neck. I'm still in good shape going into the last round," he said.
"George was on fire today, so I'll obviously need to watch out. But the final round is about focusing on your own game and playing well, and what happens happens. I'm focused on playing well in the final round and winning this championship."
Coetzee is similarly focused for a final round that won't test his nerves half as much as having to make the speech at his father's 50th birthday party this weekend. His father was unable to see the 63 as he was busy writing an exam for his pilot's license. But there's a distinct possibility that his son could be the one flying a lot higher come Sunday night.
Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate will host the South African Open Championship in 2011 and 2012. The Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course at Serengeti is the first 27-hole golf course in Gauteng and was recently named “Best New Golf Course” by Golf Digest.
The 18-hole course called Masai Mara, which means “wide open plains” in the language of the Masai, has a rugged grassland and dune-scape look. One of the unique features on the course is the par-five eighth hole with its island green. The nine-hole course called Whistling Thorn has a more classic feel.
The courses were constructed in accordance with USGA specifications, with cool season grass that provides green vistas all year round. Designed as a strategic and technical masterpiece that will test today’s best players, the sunken design of the course with its wide corridors is ideal for tournament purposes and provides optimal spectator value on almost every hole.