Date: December 14, 2008

Aiken moves to the top

Little-known South African Thomas Aiken fired a course record 61 as he stormed to the top of the leaderboard at the Alfred Dunhill Championship on Saturday. The 25-year-old, who started the week at the co-sanctioned European and Sunshine Tour event with a level-par 72, made his mark in round two with a seven-under-par 65, before his sensational performance on day three moved him to 18-under overall. That left him one shot clear of overnight leaders Len Mattiace – the American managing to cut the deficit with an eagle at the par-five 18th for a round of 66 – and England&aposs Robert Rock, who shot a 69. Three other players were also locked on 14-under-par overall including Richard Sterne, Oskar Henningsson and David Lynn. But the day belonged to Aiken, who broke the previous best score at the Leopard Creek Golf Club set in 2003 when reigning US Masters champion Trevor Immelman shot a 63 at the Tour Championship. The Johannesburg-golfer fired eight birdies in his opening 13 holes, before he holed a 35-foot putt for birdie on the par-four 17th and followed that up by chipping in for eagle on the par-five 18th. “It was a fantastic day today,” he said. “I had a great day yesterday and just came out here today trying to follow that 65 up and try to keep among the pack of the leaders.” “You know, it&aposs this funny old game called golf. You know, you just plod along and all of a sudden, things start to happen and you get the ball rolling, sink a few putts and next thing you know you hit 11 under par.” “It was really hot which made the concentration a little difficult but I managed to keep it together and drink enough water, to keep the concentration levels up. It was just great.” As for the record, Aiken, who finished 39th at the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale earlier this year, had no idea he was close to breaking it coming on to the 18th. He continued: “I had no idea what the record was. I heard a couple of mutters but nothing confirmed. I hit a good shot off the tee at the last, and I was on the fairway and I had a four iron to the green. Fortunately, I struck it well and that was that.” As for his thoughts on the final round, Aiken added: “I&aposm just going to go out and play one shot at a time. You can&apost think about scores, there&aposs no point. You need to go out and play the golf course as best you can.” World number 10 Lee Westwood endured a frustrating round with a bogey on the last seeing him drop back to 10-under overall – a third round score of 70. However, it was a good day for his countryman Lynn, who has had two top-10 and one top-30 finish in his last three tournaments, and is now well placed to make a charge on the final day. He said: “I hit my irons great today and then I putted well. I did struggle a bit with the driver. To be honest, I&aposve not felt fantastic over the ball, but I just got into my routine and got into phases. The greens were pure.” “The course is great, it was very warm out there, but you have to keep going. There are still some guys out there so I might have a lot to catch up on, but still looking forward to the tomorrow.” Third Round of the Alfred Dunhill Championships -18: Thomas Aiken 72 65 61 -17: Len Mattiace 65 68 66 -14: Oskar Henningsson 69 64 69, David Lynn 68 68 66, Robert Rock 66 67 69, Richard Sterne 68 66 68 -13: Tyrone Mordt 68 67 68, John E Morgan 67 68 68 -12: Keith Horne 70 69 65, Alvaro Velasco 68 69 67 -11: Rafael Cabrera Bello 66 71 68, Garth Mulroy 68 69 68 -10: Johan Edfors 66 69 71, Gary Lockerbie 68 71 67, Charl Schwartzel 68 67 71, Lee Westwood 66 70 70, Fabrizio Zanotti 70 67 69 -9: Marc Cayeux 68 67 72, Robert Dinwiddie 69 70 68, David Dixon 70 70 67, Michael Jonzon 65 72 70, Gareth Maybin 72 69 66, Damien McGrane 71 66 70, Jaco Van Zyl 70 67 70