Stenson storms clear of field

Big-hitting Swede surges to an eight-shot lead and puts Els' record in his sights
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Henrik Stenson continued his domination of the Sun City Challenge here by charging eight strokes clear after the third round yesterday.

The lanky Swede, who has led since the opening day, collected seven birdies in a flawless display to fire a seven-under-par 65 for a 17-under aggregate of 199 at the Gary Player Country Club. Stenson is now within striking distance of the tournament record of 263 (-25) set by Ernie Els in 1999.

"My priority tomorrow is just to win," the world No 12 told a news conference. "I'm not going to focus on the record, just play hole by hole and see where it goes." Stenson will play the final round alongside Robert Karlsson, his partner when Sweden triumphed at the World Cup in China last Sunday.

European No 1 Karlsson fired a 67 to move into second place on nine-under 207. "It will be fun playing with Robert tomorrow," said Stenson. "I'm sure he will go out and try to put me under pressure early on so I just need to keep my head down."

Lightning again stopped play yesterday after Friday's suspension meant the players had to return to complete their second rounds in the morning.

Play resumed after a 57-minute delay and Stenson, who had begun his campaign with rounds of 63 and 71, reeled off birdies at the third, ninth, 10th, 11th and 14th. "During the delay I spent 10 minutes on the range and got a good feeling again," he said. "I was able to hit some great shots over the last four holes."

After back-to-back birdies at the 16th and 17th holes, the big-hitting Swede split the fairway at the 18th and knocked his approach close only to see his birdie putt shave the hole. "I had to convince myself every shot was very important and I was pleased to get those last few birdies because it makes quite a difference being eight shots ahead rather than four or five," he said.

"There have probably been rounds where my ball striking was better but I struggled to convert. This week I haven't been at my best but I've taken my chances."

Karlsson said it would be a surprise if Stenson surrendered his advantage in today's final round. "I will just go out and play my game but I don't expect to have a chance because Henrik is just playing too good," he said.

South Africa's Rory Sabbatini was in third place on 210 after a level-par round of 72.

"If you don't make putts you are going to be treading water but I felt I was doing everything right, hitting them good. They just wouldn't go in," said Sabbatini.