Allem inspires Van den Berg to lead Dunhill

Ulrich van den Berg has acknowledged that invaluable encouragement from veteran golfer Fulton Allem has given him the conviction to win a tournament like the Dunhill Championship.

He will have the perfect opportunity to achieve that aim on Sunday when he takes a two-shot lead into the final round at the par-72 Leopard Creek Golf Course.

Van den Berg ended the third round on Saturday on 12-under-par 204 after carding a notable seven-under 65, a score even acknowledged by his closest rival, Ernie Els.

Els will be Van den Berg’s playing partner on Sunday after finishing on four-under 68 for a three-round total of 10-under 206.

Defending champion Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen are next best at nine-under, three off the pace, with Jaco van Zyl another stroke back at seven-under.

But the day undoubtedly belonged to Van den Berg.

“That is a really great score,” said Els. “Ulrich must have played some great golf out there today.”

Van den Berg, a four-time winner on the Winter Tour, said he has been playing golf regularly with Allem over the past couple of months.

“Fulton is probably one of the top 10 South African golfers of all time and I seek knowledge from him all the time.

“He has instilled a lot of confidence in my golf swing and in many other parts of my game.

“I’ve also been working hard in the gym and put in a lot of time with my coach, Neville Sundelson, and sports psychologist Andre Roux.”

His round comprised an eagle, six birdies and one drop—at the par-three fifth.

“Five was ugly. I three-putted there, which is the first time I have done that all week.

“But for me holes seven, eight and nine are brutal, and to go through those without dropping a shot gave me the confidence to keep the round going.”

He eagled the 292m par-four sixth after his tee-shot went through the green. But a perfectly played chip back saw the ball drop straight into the hole. He also had a good start by picking up shots at holes two and three and then made four more birdies on the back nine—at 10, 12, 13 and 15.

The 30-year-old finds himself in a daunting three-ball on Sunday with Els and Schwartzel, but he said this will not intimidate him.

“I will just go about my business and worry about what I have to do. I can’t be concerned about the Elses and the Schwartzels. I believe I have the tools to make this victory happen.”

Els battled in his front nine and dropped a shot at the par-four eighth to turn one-over for the round.

“I also had a silly par at the second, which is the easiest par-five on the course. That also felt like a bogey,” said Els.

But at 10 he finally picked up a shot and then chipped in from off the green at 12. He then birdied 15 and had a typical Ernie Els eagle at the par-five 18th. He initially thought of laying up and not trying to take on the water with his second shot.

“But I hit my drive perfectly, so I decided to go for it.”

Left with 217m to the pin, Els pulled the four-iron out his bag and struck the ball sweetly. It pitched about 3m from the hole and left him a seven-foot putt for his eagle.

“That was my best shot since my return to golf,” said Els, who was out of tournament play for five months due to knee surgery. The putt was equally as good, though.

“It was really nice to see it take the break and go right in the hole. I have had a terrible time with the putter for the past couple of weeks, but over the last five holes today, I made some good putts from 10 feet and in.”

While Van den Berg holds a two-shot lead, Els made it clear he will be right on his heels.

“If I can win the second tournament back after being off for four months, it will be a dream come true,” said Els.—Sapa

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