Clarke left to lament final hole disaster
Thomas Aiken and Trevor Fisher Jnr put themselves in pole position to challenge for a maiden European Tour victory after ending round three of the Africa Open on 16 under par -- a one-stroke lead over the rest of the field.
The South Africa duo carded rounds of 69 and 71 respectively to lead from little-known countryman Jbe' Kruger, out on his own at 15 under, while one of the pre-tournament favourites, Charl Schwartzel, and Jake Roos, who carded the lowest score of the round with 66, were a further shot back.
Miles Tunnicliff was the highest-placed European in the field -- the Englishman adding an impressive 67 to his opening two scores of 68 and 71 -- but Ireland's Darren Clarke was not as fortunate, enduring a costly final hole.
The Ulsterman, who was looking well on course to end the day at least four shots behind the tournament leaders after heading to the par-four 18 at five under for the round and without a blemish on his card, faltered badly at the final tee.
He pulled his tee shot left into the rough, took two chip shots to get out of it and then two-putted for a triple-bogey seven to end with a disappointing 71 and end the day at nine under overall.
Richard Sterne of South Africa, another leading contender for the title, was on the same score after a level-par 73, with James Kingston two shots better off after his 71.
The co-leaders, though, will be pleased with their efforts, especially Aiken, who finished his round at the East London Golf Club with three birdies in his last four holes to storm into contention.
"I haven't won a main Tour event yet, so that would be a nice thing to get under my belt," he said after following 67s on the first two days with another solid display. "It's something I've been looking to do for a while now."
And he was relishing the prospect of his playing partner being long-time friend Fisher Jnr, a who has been on the top of the leaderboard from day one after his rounds of 66, 66 and 71.
"I've known Trevor since we were 12, we are very good friends. Not only that, he caddied for me last year at the CA Championships in Miami, which for me was a big turning point in my career," he said. "So it's going to be an awesome day tomorrow to get to play with him and hopefully we can go out there have fun and relax one another."
Tunnicliff was also pleased to keep his chances alive.
"I played really solid today and got the putter going nicely, which hasn't happened for quite a while," Tunnicliff said. "So it was nice to see a few putts roll in."