Max Homa came alive on the back nine to open a one-stroke lead at the Nedbank Golf Challenge with one round to play at Gary Player Country Club.
The World Number Eight shared the halfway advantage with Matthieu Pavon but bettered the Frenchman’s third round effort by one as a three under par 69 moved him to 13 under and into pole position for his maiden DP World Tour win.
The six-time PGA TOUR winner cancelled out a bogey at the fourth – his first of the week – with a birdie at the fifth to make the turn at level par, before a moment of magic arrived at the par five tenth.
After finding the greenside bunker with his second, Homa hit a 56 degree wedge which released out towards the hole before finding the bottom of the cup to move the American back into contention.
A final birdie of the day arrived at the 14th before playing partner Pavon bogeyed the 15th and 16th to drop into second place at ‘Africa’s Major’.
Danish pair Nicolai Højgaard and Thorbjørn Olesen matched each other with rounds of 69 to share third place on 11 under, with Englishman Dan Bradbury a shot further back on ten under.
Defending champion Tommy Fleetwood posted a one under 71 to move into a tie for eighth place on seven under par and keep alive faint hopes of adding a historic third successive Nedbank Golf Challenge title.
Max Homa: “I wasn’t swinging it so well to start, I was a bit scrappy. I hit the ball really well coming down the last nine or ten holes, that was nice. I didn’t hole anything putting wise but I made a nice bunker shot for eagle on ten which helped because I couldn’t get the ball to go into the hole. I did a really good job of staying patient on the back nine. I hit it really well and had a lot of looks. That was my goal of how to play.
“It was one of those feeder bunker shots; if you land it short it’s going to run, if you land it long it will spin. So I took a 56 and just played a low skidding one and it came off really good. It was one of the fun ones where 12 feet out you don’t know how it could miss so those are the ones you like to have.
“It would be tremendous. Every day we walk up nine and they have the plaques of everyone who’s won and the names are stout so it would be amazing to add my name to the tradition here.
“I woke up a little homesick today and we always say if I’m going to be away from the family I might as well play good so it’s been nice to stay true to that.
Matthieu Pavon: “We know it’s moving day and lots of people move up the leaderboard so it was nice to start well. Overall it was a hell of a grind out there. It was really hot, pins are tricky, it’s all about managing some of the shots you have. All in all I’m pretty happy to score under par.
“In the heat and intensity you have to put on every shot, of course you drain a lot of energy which probably got me in the end. I walked away with two pars on 17 and 18, pretty solid, so I’ll take that and see how we go tomorrow.
“It is always nice. I won a few weeks ago, my confidence is pretty high and my game feels good. Now I am competing against some of the best players in the world so all I can do is focus on myself, focus on my game and give it my all tomorrow.”
Thorbjørn Olesen: “Today was a little bit different, bit of everything out there. Couple of chip ins, shank on 16 but besides that it was generally pretty good. Probably a little bit better the first two days but I felt like it was pretty steady, obviously not with the shank but the rest was pretty decent.
“I think if you’re from Europe or you grew up there, it’s very different to play here. I’ve been here a few times now and I’m more used to it but it still feels different for me. This course, anything can happen on any hole so it’s an exciting golf course to play.
“I can’t remember when I last chipped in so it was nice to have two in one round. Both of them were pretty perfect. Really tricky one on the second but I hit it really great and it just dropped in. Both excellent and I’m pretty pleased with them.
“I’ve played pretty solid the last three weeks, obviously had a week off last week before this. Struggled a little bit coming in here but I played pretty steady the first three rounds and just trying to continue that.
“I’m definitely concentrating on this tournament. It’s a great tournament with a lot of history and a lot of great players have won this tournament so I think every player in this field would love to put their name on that trophy, so that’s number one.”
Scores after round three:
203 M HOMA (USA) 66 68 69,
204 M PAVON (FRA) 68 66 70,
205 N HOJGAARD (DEN) 66 70 69, T OLESEN (DEN) 70 66 69,
206 D BRADBURY (ENG) 66 69 71,
207 R HISATSUNE (JPN) 67 72 68,
208 S S?DERBERG (SWE) 68 70 70,
209 J CAMPILLO (ESP) 69 71 69, T FLEETWOOD (ENG) 71 67 71,
210 E FERGUSON (SCO) 70 72 68, A MERONK (POL) 67 75 68, Y PAUL (GER) 72 69 69, A BJ?RK (SWE) 70 71 69, J SMITH (ENG) 72 68 70, J THOMAS (USA) 72 66 72,
211 A RAI (ENG) 69 72 70, M BALDWIN (ENG) 70 74 67, R HOJGAARD (DEN) 69 71 71, M SIEM (GER) 71 68 72, V NORRMAN (SWE) 66 72 73, H DU PLESSIS (RSA) 70 67 74,
212 S CROCKER (USA) 71 71 70, J GUERRIER (FRA) 67 71 74,
213 M KIEFFER (GER) 71 71 71, T MCKIBBIN (NIR) 70 72 71, M SOUTHGATE (ENG) 70 71 72, R RAMSAY (SCO) 68 69 76,
214 V PEREZ (FRA) 69 70 75,
215 J BRUN (FRA) 71 71 73, T LAWRENCE (RSA) 71 73 71, N KIMSEY (ENG) 72 72 71, R FOX (NZL) 69 76 70, M WALLACE (ENG) 71 67 77,
216 B GRACE (RSA) 72 70 74, G FORREST (SCO) 73 69 74, S V?LIM?KI (FIN) 71 72 73, A OTAEGUI (ESP) 70 74 72, D HILLIER (NZL) 72 68 76, J DANTORP (SWE) 70 70 76,
217 J WINTHER (DEN) 68 73 76, C SYME (SCO) 70 69 78, S FORSSTR?M (SWE) 74 71 72, M JORDAN (ENG) 69 69 79,
218 F MOLINARI (ITA) 68 73 77, R MANSELL (ENG) 71 70 77, M ARMITAGE (ENG) 73 71 74, N BACHEM (GER) 71 75 72,
219 T CLEMENTS (ENG) 71 74 74, N ELVIRA (ESP) 74 72 73, L DE JAGER (RSA) 76 71 72,
220 J LUITEN (NED) 70 75 75, P LARRAZ?BAL (ESP) 73 75 72, Z LOMBARD (RSA) 76 72 72,
221 J SCRIVENER (AUS) 71 74 76, A ROZNER (FRA) 74 73 74, R MACINTYRE (SCO) 78 70 73,
222 S SHARMA (IND) 68 76 78, J ROSE (ENG) 74 70 78, C HILL (SCO) 72 75 75, C SHINKWIN (ENG) 74 76 72, M HELLIGKILDE (DEN) 78 72 72,
224 O STRYDOM (RSA) 75 74 75, R LANGASQUE (FRA) 80 72 72,
228 D WHITNELL (ENG) 74 75 79,
234 D BROWN (ENG) 72 85 77,
238 H LONG (GER) 83 76 79,