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Pablo poised for Leopard Creek glory

Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal was physically and mentally drained after a day of 48.5°C heat where he was still able to secure a three-stroke lead in the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.

“I am as tired as I have ever been,” he said after a 70 that puts him top of the leaderboard on 11 under par going into Sunday’s final round.

Dutchman Wil Besseling is his nearest challenger on eight under following a 70 of his own, while 2014 champion Branden Grace heads into the final round on seven under following a third-round 71.

It was another punishing day of heat in the lowveld that tested to the limit the golfers’ ability to focus, and Larrazabal made peace with the fact that he didn’t execute his gameplan exactly as he would’ve wanted.

“I care about my gameplan. I wanted to shoot in the 60s and I didn’t do that. I didn’t play as well as I did in the second round, but it was solid. But you know, on this golf course you cannot be even a little bit off your game. You have to be 100% focused, and with this heat mistakes are going to happen. I have to allow for that,” he said.

But it’s a measure of how well he is playing that mistakes included, he still holds a commanding three-stroke lead on a golf course that is not going to get any easier.

“It’s going to be fun on Sunday. If I can shoot a round in the 60s, then they’ll have to come and chase me,” he said.

Besseling is hoping he can rise to the challenge of that chase. “I’ve never been in this position before in such a big tournament. But I feel confident. I’m definitely going to enjoy myself on the final day. I feel relaxed and mentally I’m in a good place,” he said.

And Grace, despite finishing with a bogey on 18 after hitting it into the water guarding the green, feels a low round is still on the cards for him.

“I know a round of four- or five-under is out there for me. It’s just a case of one or two things that need to go my way,” he said.

Grace knows better than anybody that there is a fine balance required here at Leopard Creek between pushing for a good score and being too aggressive, and it’s something he’ll be cognizant of on the final day as he tries to catch Larrazabal.

“You can’t push too hard around here. If you push too hard it can backfire on you. But you know, I’m also trying to win. So all I can do is go out and try and shoot that round of four- or five-under and hope that something happens.”