Kevin Phelan continued his impressive start to his professional career with a solid third round 68 in the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.
The Waterford talent, 23, leapt from the cut line to joint 15th on four under par as he missed just two fairways and scrambled brilliantly, carding five birdies and just one bogey at one of the most punishing venues on the European Tour schedule. Leaderboard
He's a distant nine strokes behind former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, who is on course to defend his title thanks to a third round 67.
A winner at Leopard Creek Country Club by 12 shots last year, Schwartzel cruised to 13 under par to lead England’s Richard Finch by two shots, with Frenchman Victor Riu a shot further back in third.
“It’s one of those courses where I’m comfortable with all of the right lines,” said former Masters Tournament champion Schwartzel, who has not dropped a shot since a double bogey at the tenth hole of his opening round.
“A lot of golf courses you need to hit it on lines that you feel awkward with, but this course is mostly right in front of you. And I think it helps that I’ve had good success here too."
Finch lost his European Tour card after a disappointing 2013 and failed to regain it at Qualifying school, but victory would hand him the reprieve of a place on The 2014 Race to Dubai.
However, the two-time European Tour winner is well aware that the leader will be hard to catch on a course where Schwartzel won his first European Tour title in 2005 and has had four runner-up finishes.
“If he goes out and shoots a 65, it’s done and dusted,” said Finch. “He’s one of the best players in the world.”
Ballyclare's Gareth Maybin recovered from a horrific start - he double bogeyed the second and third and then bogeyed the fourth - to play the remaining 14 holes in five under with seven birdies and just two more bogeys.
A 71 left him tied for 34th on one under but Damien McGrane had 33 putts in a 74 that relegated him to joint 55th on two over.