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Charl Schwartzel leads by four from Darren Clarke

South African Charl Schwartzel is well placed for a second European Tour win in as many weeks after taking a four-stroke lead in the third round of the Joburg Open on Saturday.

The early Race to Dubai leader shot a flawless seven-under-par round of 64 at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.

After a steady front nine, in which he birdied only the two par-fives, Schwartzel sank a string of medium-range birdie putts on the homeward loop to return in 30 and move to 18 under for the tournament.

Victory in the Joburg Open, which is co-sanctioned by the European Tour and South Africa’s Sunshine Tour, would represent a second consecutive win for Schwartzel after he took last weekend’s Africa Open.

Schwartzel’s nearest challenger is Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke, who is bidding for a first European Tour win since the 2008 KLM Open.

Clarke’s 67 on Saturday featured six birdies, but bogeys at the fourth and ninth holes kept him at 14-under-par overall and allowed Schwartzel to get away.

“The front nine was pretty solid, just sort of keeping in touch,” Schwartzel told reporters. “Then we had the rain delay and I was thinking it would be nice to get four birdies on the back nine. But I managed to make it five.

“I’d say the turning point was on 10. I made a fantastic up and down from the greenside bunker there, and basically just kept the round alive. Then I hit a good seven iron into the 12th to get things going in the right direction and all of a sudden I started hitting a lot of good shots and converting the putts.”

Clarke said: “I have to play really well in the final round to catch Charl. I had two putts out of nowhere go in from 20 feet today, but I missed some short ones, which was very frustrating.” South African veteran Hendrik Buhrmann lies third at 12. Buhrmann, who has played 303 events on the Sunshine Tour since turning professional in 1985, has several minor local victories to his name but has never won a big-money tournament.

South Africans Jaco van Zyl, Hennie Otto, Alex Haindl and James Kamte were all handily placed at 11 under, but will probably need to hope for a bad Sunday from Schwartzel in order to contend.

Englishman Danny Willett completed the quintet at 11 under. He was tied with Schwartzel and overnight leader David Lynn at 13-under after nine holes, but double bogeys at the 12th and the 15th set him back before he rallied with two late birdies.

Lynn, who played with Schwartzel and Willett in the final group, had even more of a nightmare on the back nine. Three bogeys and a double-bogey meant he fell out of contention at eight under par.

Briton David Horsey celebrated a hole-in-one at the 12th.

Tournament organisers have made a significant change to Sunday’s schedule in order to avoid predicted afternoon thunderstorms.

The leaders will tee off as early as 0900 local time (0700 GMT) on Sunday in a bid to finish before a repeat of the bad weather that has played havoc with the first three days.

A thunderstorm stopped play at 1122 GMT on Saturday after the last group had completed eight holes. Play resumed at 1400.



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