Johannesburg, South Africa (SportsNetwork.com) - Charl Schwartzel used a third-round, 6-under 66 on Saturday to grab a 5-shot lead heading into the final day of the South African Open Championship.
Looking to win this event for the first time in his career, Schwartzel has nine total victories on the European Tour, including a 2011 Masters title. The South African finished 54 holes at 13-under-par 203.
"I figure the golf course is probably one of those courses that that can happen," Schwartzel said about being so far ahead. "I'm flying the ball really well and I think that's pretty key around here."
Matthew Fitzpatrick and David Drysdale are the next closest competitors to Schwartzel. Fitzpatrick fired a 5-under 67, while Drysdale shot a 4-under 68 and the duo is tied for second at 8-under 208 at Glendower Golf Club.
Lee Slattery carded the lowest score of the week so far with a 7-under 65 and he is alone in fourth at 7-under 209. Second-round leader Andy Sullivan struggled on his way to a 2-over 74 on Saturday and he is tied for fifth at 6- under with seven others.
Following a 5-over 77 Friday, five-time champion Ernie Els rebounded with a 3- under 69 in the third round and he is tied for 20th at 3-under 213. Defending champion Morten Orum Madsen shot a 71 for the second consecutive day and he is tied for 36th at 1-under.
Schwartzel, beginning the day one shot behind the leader Sullivan, exploded out of the gate to seize control of the lead with four straight birdies from No. 1.
After a pair of pars, Schwartzel dropped his first shot with a bogey on seven, but he had a response right away with back-to-back gains on eight and nine.
Making the turn at 5-under for the day, Schwartzel made two more pars on 10 and 11 before play was halted due to inclement weather. Upon return, Schwartzel extended his lead to six shots by sneaking in a birdie chip from just off the green on No. 12
Schwartzel tripped to a bogey on the par-5 13th, but he had an answer once again with a birdie on 14. The 30-year-old coasted to the finish with four straight pars from 15, taking a 5-shot lead into Sunday.
"Got off to the best start you can possibly think of and then kept swinging the club well, hit some good shots," Schwartzel said. "I thought the greens slowed down quite a bit after waiting around for a while. The last few holes left quite a few putts short."
The 20-year-old Fitzpatrick started off slow as he made the turn at 1-over following two birdies and three bogeys on the front nine, but a great finish has the youngster within striking distance.
Fitzpatrick made birdies on 10 and 12 before rolling in an eagle on the par-5 13th. Now at 3-under for the day, Fitzpatrick made two more gains on 15 and 17 to pull within five of the leader Schwartzel.
Drysdale also ended strong after a tough start. After making three birdies and two bogeys on the front nine, Drysdale made a mess of the par-4 10th and settled for double-bogey.
That was the last dropped shot Drysdale had as he ended with five birdies over his last seven holes from 12 to join Fitzpatrick at minus-8.
NOTES: Schwartzel's last victory came at last season's Alfred Dunhill Championship ... Schwartzel's best finish at this event came back in 2005 when he tied for second behind winner Tim Clark ... South Africans have won this event 11 of the last 14 years ... Schwartzel has led nine times going into the final round on the European Tour and he has won five of those times ... The delay due to thunder and lightning in the area lasted 45 minutes.