Gauteng, South Africa (SportsNetwork.com) - Charl Schwartzel carded a 3-under- par 69 on Saturday to snare the outright lead entering the final round of the South African Open Championship.
Schwartzel, a South African who is seeking his first victory at this event, moved to 15-under-par 201 through 54 holes at Glendower Golf Club.
"It was a bit up and down, but I think I did what I needed to do," said Schwartzel of his round. "You always think some things could have been better."
European Tour rookie Marco Crespi, who shared the halfway lead with Schwartzel, shot 70 and ended three rounds of this 2013-14 season-opening tournament tied for second place. He stands alongside Morten Orum Madsen (69) at 14-under 202.
Schwartzel's compatriot Hennie Otto closed with a flurry, notching birdies on seven of his last eight holes to post a 65 and grab solo fourth at 13-under 203.
Alejandro Canizares (69), Andrea Pavan (68) and Christiaan Basson (71) share fifth place at 11-under, one shot ahead of Magnus A. Carlsson (66), James Kamte (70) and Jbe' Kruger (71).
Retief Goosen, a two-time winner of this event, shot 70. He enters the final round tied for 11th place with six others a minus-9.
Playing together in the final group, Schwartzel and Crespi both mixed three birdies and a bogey on the outward nine to turn with a share of the lead at 14-under.
The difference came at the par-4 10th, where Schwartzel tallied a birdie to Crespi's par, allowing the 2011 Masters champion to move one clear at minus-15.
The cards were identical from there, as both players parred four straight, went birdie-bogey from the 15th and parred the final two holes to keep the 1- stroke margin intact entering the final round.
"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," said Schwartzel.
Madsen carded a pair of birdies and a bogey over his opening nine holes. He briefly pulled even with Schwartzel and Crespi when he reeled off three birdies in a four-hole span from the 12th, but a bogey at the 16th dropped the Dane to 14-under, where he remained by parring out.
It was a tale of two nines for Otto, who stumbled to a 36 during his outward stretch courtesy of a triple-bogey 7 at the ninth. He righted himself aptly, however, closing with seven birdies over his final eight holes for an inward 29.
"I said to (playing partner Attie Schwartzel) on the 10th, 'Let's see if we can make some more birdies on the back nine.' And it worked!," exclaimed Otto.
NOTES: Schwartzel is the highest-ranked player in the field at world No. 22. He is an eight-time European Tour winner ... Crespi recently made it through Qualifying School for the first time in 11 attempts ... South Africans have won this tournament 11 of the last 13 years ... The event is co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour ... Next to the British Open, this is the oldest national championship ... Last year's champion Henrik Stenson is not in the field this week. He won both the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup and the European Tour's Race to Dubai in 2013.