Simon Thornton slipped to the back of the field as pre-tournament favourite Charl Schwartzel took a one-shot lead into the final round of the South African Open Championship hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni.
As Schwartzel carded a scrappy three under par 69 at Glendower GC to sit on 15 under overall, one clear of Marco Crespi and Morten Ørum Madsen, Thornton signed for a three over 75 to find himself tied for 61st on one over.
The former Royal County Down assistant - a maiden winner on the European Tour last June -, bogeyed the first, double bogeyed the third and dropped another shot at the fourth.
He recovered with back to back birdies at the seventh and eighth but sandwiched a birdie at the 16th between bogeys at the 13th and 18th.
Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters Tournament champion and eight time European Tour winner, birdied five holes but bogeyed two in a steady if unspectacular third round in the first event of the 2014 Race to Dubai.
The world number 22 said: “It was a bit up and down but I think I did what I needed to do. You always think some things could have been better.
“I had a chance to separate myself from the field a little bit at 12, 13, two birdie opportunities, but the greens are starting to speed up and, like I said yesterday, there are a few bumpy spots around the holes … 69 overall is a good round.”
Schwartzel, whose shot of the day was a 120 metre approach at the tenth that stopped two inches from the cup, added: “Every time I hit a good shot it seemed like my straightforward ones were (then) a bit iffy. Like I said, it was a bit up and down; there were some bad swings and a few good ones but it’s now all done.”
Schwartzel explained his determination to win this competition for the first time, saying: “I’ve won the Dunhill and one or two others here in South Africa. The South African Open, being the second oldest golf tournament in the world and being our national open, it would be fantastic.”