Justin Harding fired an eight-under-par 64 to take a one-stroke lead ahead of the final round of the Lombard Insurance Classic being played at the Royal Swazi Spa Country Club.
Harding made six birdies and an eagle to edge clear of first-round leader Combrinck Smit and put himself in a position to win his second tournament in two weeks on the same course after he won last week’s Investec Royal Swazi Open.
The eagle was particularly satisfying. ‘I’ve been looking for the eagle for quite some time – at least six competitive rounds around here over the last couple of weeks,’ he said. ‘It was a good couple of shots and I rolled the putt in.’
It was a bogey-free round for Harding – barring Alex Haindl, who finished three shots behind and Jared Harvey, who carded an eight-under of his own to move to five shots off the pace – dropped shots.
‘I felt like I played nicely all day, and keeping the bogeys off the card is key,’ said Harding.
And keeping bogeys off the card has a lot to do with good putting. ‘My putting is just about confidence,’ he said. ‘I’m walking onto the green having maybe two or three fewer things to think about. I’m walking on, picking my line and stroking it. If it goes in, it goes in and I’m giving myself a bunch of chances. Eventually, they all add up and lead to a good score.’
There were good scores aplenty behind Harding, and it had a lot to do with a soaking drizzle which was present at the start, and came back later in the afternoon. ‘I don’t particularly like playing in the rain. Nobody does,’ said Harding. ‘But the rain softened the course up and made it more scoreable. The ball is not really running off the fairways and you can attack a few more pins from the fairways.’
Behind Harding and Smith, there was a group of three players in 11-under, three shots off the lead. They were Vaughn Groenewald, Jake Roos and Alex Haindl, all of whom have been threatening to win recently.
‘You’ll probably see the same sort of shoot-out tomorrow and I hope I can fend them off,’ said Harding. ‘I would prefer a grind, but it’s a matter of making one less shot than the guys finishing ahead of me. It’s probably going to take a low one. I’ve shot 67 here twice when leading and have been pipped in a play-off both times.’
‘I’m going to see if I can keep the momentum all the way through.’
Photo: Luke Walker/Gallo Images
You may also like