Date: February 09, 2014
Author: Dom Farrell, Omnisport

Local duo in pole position for Joburg glory

Home favourites Thomas Aiken and Justin Walters will go head-to-head for glory in the final round of the Joburg Open.

The locally-born duo were in electric form on the Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club's East Course on Saturday – Aiken firing a nine under 63 and Walters coming in one shy with a 64.

They head into the final round all-square on 17 under and two shots clear of Korea's Jin Jeong.

A winner in Perth last year, Jeong only dropped one shot in a round of 66 featuring an eagle and five birdies.

Finland's Roope Kakko is a stroke further back in fourth having shot 67, but overnight leaders Edoardo Molinari and Craig Lee endured disappointing rounds to lose ground, carding 72 and 74 respectively.

Molinari is now six off the pace, while Lee is eight behind on nine under and seemingly out of contention.

Aiken, a two-time winner on the European Tour, did not disappoint an expectant home crowd hoping for a sixth South African winner in the eighth edition of the Joburg Open as he displayed imperious form in an outward 33.

But he saved his best for the back nine as he carded birdies on 11, 12 and 14 – the latter courtesy of a spectacular 50-foot putt.

Further gains at 17 and 18 took the 30-year-old's birdie count to 10 for the day and he is understandably confident of finishing the job.

"I’ve been in a lot of final groups, won twice in Europe and seven times on the Sunshine Tour, so I know what pressures there are going to be," Aiken told the European Tour's official website.

"If you just go and do what you do best, stick to your game plan and take it shot by shot then the best golfer will win at the end of the day."

Walters laid the foundations for his own memorable round with seven birdies over the first 11 holes and the leading pack have extra incentive on Sunday, with three qualifying places for the Open Championship up for grabs.

"I hit the ball so well today," said Walters. "I've got one more round tomorrow (Sunday) and I'm so happy that I’ve put myself into a strong position. I'm super excited for tomorrow, because it's what we play for."