Rose, Immelman surge ahead

A terrific duel between Justin Rose of England and South Africa’s Trevor Immelman at the Nedbank Golf Challenge continued at the Gary Player Country Club on Saturday.

Both players scored five-under-par 67s to share the 54-hole lead on 16-under-par 200.

The pair of 27-year-olds were also joint leaders at the halfway mark in this 12-man line-up featuring eight of the world’s top 20 players.

Rose, the world number eight, is bidding to pocket the $1,2-million first prize. World number 22 Immelman made his debut last year when he was seventh behind winner Jim Furyk of the United States.

Furyk is not defending his title because he has a neck injury.

While most would like to think Sunday’s final round will be a two-man race between Rose and Immelman as third-placed Ernie Els is five off the pace, world number five Els himself will have nothing of it.

The big South African is capable of some explosive golf, especially when it comes to chasing the leaders on the final day, and he has made up as many as six shots in the last round before to win.

Rose was trailing playing partner Immelman by three strokes with five holes to go on Saturday but played those holes in three under with birdies at the 14th, 15th and 16th followed by solid pars at the long and treacherous par-four 17th and 18th holes.

By contrast Immelman stumbled coming in, with a bogey at the last dropping him back into share of the lead on 16 under.

“I actually didn’t feel that comfortable with my game out there today [Saturday],” said Rose, who on this long (7 162m) and difficult course did not make a single bogey in the first two rounds.

“I dropped two shots today, but somehow managed to string together two runs of three straight birdies, more by grinding it out rather than with fantastic shot-making.

“I guess my game is maturing,” added the Englishman who was ranked well outside the top 100 18 months ago but is coming to the end of a superb 2007 in which he won the end-of-season Volvo Masters and topped the European Tour Order of Merit.

Immelman said such good scoring on such a tough course wasn’t expected. “But for me the putter has been really hot,” he explained.

“I started with a bogey today and finished with one, but in between I made seven birdies—sinking a bunch of putts in the 20-foot to 30-foot range.”

Swede Henrik Stenson, who is lying fourth on 209 and is the only other player in with a remote chance of winning, was two under through seven holes on Saturday.

But he lost momentum by failing to birdie the par-five ninth—where players were looking to pick up a shot—and played the back nine in two-over-par 38 on his way to a disappointing 72.

England’s Luke Donald and Australia’s Adam Scott are joint fifth on 210.—AFP

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