Hot weather and the ball flying for miles is always the norm at Sun City, but Belgium’s Thomas Detry managed to master the different conditions in this year’s Nedbank Golf Challenge and soar into a share of the lead after the third round with back-to-back 67s on Saturday.
Heavy showers on Friday meant the second round could only be completed on Saturday morning, with the golfers then only having a half-hour break before heading out again for their third rounds. Although there was occasional drizzle on Saturday, mercifully there was no disruption to play with the rain not nearly as heavy as forecast.
Detry began his round on the 10th and immediately gathered back-to-back birdies and then another shot on the par-five 14th. His next birdie came via a lengthy, curling putt on the par-three fourth, and he then finished his round in superb style with three successive birdies from the seventh to the ninth holes. The 29-year-old dropped two shots, on the 17th and sixth holes, both par-fours.
His tremendous finish lifted him to nine-under-par for the tournament, the mark Rasmus Hojgaard got to on a sensational run that saw him eagle the famous ninth hole and pick up birdies on the par-five 10th and par-three 12th holes. The exciting Dane then parred his way home to shoot another 69, just as he did in the first two rounds.
Detry is a leading player on both the DP World and U.S. PGA Tours, and so he has had to learn to be adaptable, especially when it comes to the considerable travel demands and the different courses and conditions he has to handle. It is no surprise then that an unusual day at the Gary Player Country Club did not catch him offguard.
“With all the rain, the course is playing longer. We’re used to hitting Driver 330 metres and seven-iron over 220, but with the colder weather, we’re now hitting five or six iron and I think that surprised some of the players a little,” Detry said.
“It’s also wetter so the rough can be a bit harder to get out of, so it is easy to drop shots here and there. It’s usually hot, so the course is playing much longer than we’re used to.
“The travel between tours is tough, but I really wanted to make these last two events on the DP World Tour, so I flew from Mexico on Sunday night and only arrived here on Tuesday night.
“I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather, so to be able to rest most of Friday was massive for me to play 27 holes today so consistently. Getting a lot of rest and eating a lot of food out there gave me energy,” Detry said.
Grace and Lawrence
South Africans Branden Grace and Thriston Lawrence are both just one shot off the pace heading into the final round. Lawrence had the lowest score of the third round with a brilliant seven-under 65 and, starting his round on the 10th, he had three successive birdies from the 13th and then another two back-to-back on 18 and the first hole. The 2021 Joburg Open champion completed a bogey-free front nine with two more birdies on the sixth and ninth holes.
Grace lifted himself into contention with a brilliant 67 on Saturday morning, and then struck the ball beautifully again in the third round, but a cold putter meant he had to settle for a one-under 71. But he is in hot form and has the confidence of his 2017 Nedbank Golf Challenge triumph to bolster him.