Henrik Stenson recovers from air shot to remain in the lead in Sun City
Henrik Stenson recovered from the embarrassment of a complete air shot with the aid of an outrageous stroke of luck in Saturday's third round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City.
Stenson had already seen his one-shot overnight lead wiped out by playing partner Jaco Van Zyl's opening birdie when he attempted a delicate flop shot from just off the second green, only for his club to slide straight under the ball.
The world number seven was more successful with his second attempt, chipping to five feet and holing for par, but saw Van Zyl - whose superb approach to the first had left him a tap-in birdie - two-putt from long range on the par five to take the lead.
Stenson reclaimed top spot courtesy of a two-shot swing on the fifth, the Swede holing from 10 feet for birdie and Van Zyl failing to get up and down from a greenside bunker.
Gotta love Henrik Stenson! https://t.co/8gGkfvfxgO— Seth Berliner (@Coloradosprout) December 5, 2015
Another bogey from Van Zyl on the seventh, just the 36-year-old's third dropped shot of the week, briefly gave Stenson a two-shot lead, only for the Ryder Cup star to bogey the eighth after finding sand with his approach.
Stenson could easily have bogeyed the ninth as well, his second shot to the par five clearing the water surrounding the green by a matter of inches and somehow coming to rest between the edge of the green and rocks defining the hazard.
From there the 39-year-old could only chip on to 20 feet and looked to have left his birdie attempt just short, but after a brief pause the ball dropped into the cup for an unlikely four.
That took Stenson to 12 under par and level with Australian Marc Leishman, who had holed from just six feet for eagle on the 10th in the group ahead, with Van Zyl on 11 under and American Robert Streb another shot behind.
The best round of the day was coming from England's Matt Fitzpatrick, who was six under through 16 holes as he looked to make up for the disappointment of missing out on being named European Tour rookie of the year on Friday.
That took British Masters winner Fitzpatrick to four under overall and two ahead of the man who pipped him to the award, BMW PGA Championship winner Byeong Hun An.
Stenson rated his chances of playing this week at just five per cent after spending three days in bed with the flu, but birdies on the 10th and 14th - both par fives - took him two shots clear of Leishman, who had bogeyed the 11th but also birdied the 14th.
Van Zyl had fallen three shots behind after a run of five straight pars from the turn, while fellow South African Branden Grace had set the early clubhouse target on seven under after a third round of 67.
Another birdie on the 15th briefly took Stenson three shots clear, but a three-putt bogey on the next coincided with a birdie on the 17th from Leishman and another on the last gave the Australian a superb 66.
It also gave the world number 47 a share of the lead on 14 under, with Van Zyl dropping shots on the 16th and 17th to fall back to nine under par alongside Streb.