South Africa look set to maintain their stranglehold on the FBC Zimbabwe Open trophy after a difficult day in the office for local golfers during the third round of the R2 million event at Royal Harare Golf Club on Saturday.
Overnight leader Luca Filippi leads the South African charge for the coveted title despite almost surrendering a five-stroke advantage after carding a two-over-par 74 in the penultimate round. The 23-year-old however still holds a one-shot lead in the Sunshine Tour co-sanctioned on nine-under-par 207.
“It felt like a very long day and it was tough going out at 12.30pm in the swirling wind,” Filippi admitted. “So three-under through six holes was a great start.”
“But then the double on 10 set me back, and I, unfortunately, had two bad holes to end too. But I thought I hung in nicely on the back nine. It was a nice start in conditions that were not easy and I thought I was building a nice lead, but golf thought otherwise and instead I just have a one-shot lead,” said Filippi, who will be seeking his maiden Sunshine Tour win on Sunday.
Filippi will start the final round, just ahead of his compatriot Wynand Dingle who rose six places on the leaderboard to solo second after carding a four-under-par 68.
Seasoned South African professionals Louis de Jager and Jaco Ahlers are within striking distance, just three shots off the lead on six-under-par 210 while Zambian professional golfer Madalitso Muthiya is the only none South Africa inside the top five five-under.
Muthiya is tied with the first-round leader Louis Albertse, who carded a level par round of 72, which could have been better as he came agonisingly close to making an eagle on the 18th after hitting the flag with his second shot.
Muthiya appears to be the only golfer in a better position to end the dominance of South African golfers, who have won every edition of the Zimbabwe Open since its return in 2010.
Chapman Golf Club professional Nyasha Muyambo, who is probably one of the most underrated players on the local circuit is the joint highest-placed local golfer in a tie for 17th on one-over-par 217.
He is tied with compatriot Ryan Cairns, who had a difficult round of 76, while Jack Allard is three shots back after carding a solid two-under-par 70 for the 54-hole total of three-over-par 219.
Fifteen-year-old junior golf sensation Keegan Shutt looks set to walk away with the amateur trophy and the green jacket awarded to the leading amateur in the field after carding a 76 for a 54-hole total of six-over-par-222.