Monday 18 December 2017

Scintillating Schwartzel strolls to 10-stroke lead

Charl Schwartzel, an 11-shot winner in Thailand last weekend, takes a 10-stroke lead into the final round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship in his native South Africa today.

But if the week is belonging to the 28-year-old from Johannesburg then the 192-yard 12th at Leopard Creek is compatriot Keith Horne's property – incredibly, he holed-in-one for the second day running.

By repeating the feat, Horne won himself a car, but Schwartzel was the one in overdrive.

He shared the halfway lead with France's Gregory Bourdy, but produced his second successive 64 – the low score of the day again – and now stands at 21-under par.

It could have been even better for last year's Masters champion, who in the past month has had finishes of fifth, third, second and first. Another first will surely follow.

He had five birdies in the opening eight holes and, after his first bogey of the tournament, four more birdies in a row from the 12th swept him nine in front.

Then came a trip to the lake on the short 16th, but after rescuing a bogey four from the drop zone, Schwartzel – winner of the title eight years ago and four times a runner-up since then – closed with yet another birdie.

By contrast, Bourdy went in the water there for a bogey six, resulting in an inward 41 and a round of 74 – yet he is still in second place.

At 11-under he is one in front of third-placed trio Kristoffer Broberg, the Swede who won four times on the Challenge Tour last year, England's Steve Webster and South African Branden Grace. Horne is one shot further back.

Schwartzel's victory last Sunday was his first since Augusta in April last year. He finished with four successive birdies there and looks back in the same form.

Not that he is prepared to talk about where it might take him in the new year.

"I don't even want to think about it," he said about his goals. "I don't even think about anything.

"I just want to keep playing with no expectations.

"In the back of your mind you know what you want to achieve. We all want to win golf tournaments, but I can't be thinking about wanting to win because that's not how I'm actually going to win.

"If I play the best I'll win – that's the way I see it."

Meanwhile, Asia battled back to close within a point of Europe at the end of the second day of the Royal Trophy at The Empire Hotel and Country Club in Brunei.

In trouble after the first day's foursomes, when they trailed 3.5-0.5, Naomichi Ozaki's players head into today's eight singles just one point adrift at 4.5- 3.5 after winning two of yesterday's fourball matches and claiming a half point in the other two.

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