Els heads Durban field

Overnight leader Ernie Els headed the South African Open by one shot after round three was played early today and three-time major winner will be aiming for another similar effort later this afternoon as he bids to secure a fifth title.

Overnight leader Ernie Els headed the South African Open by one shot after round three was played early today and three-time major winner will be aiming for another similar effort later this afternoon as he bids to secure a fifth title.

The South African carded five under par – a round of 64 after just 17 holes were being used at the Durban Country Club due to the par-three fourth hole being rendered unplayable – to move on to 19 under overall.

He now faces what is looking like a straight fight with fellow countryman and two-time former winner Retief Goosen, who is a stroke back after a six under 63 score today.

The tournament, already heavily affected by rain after persistent showers forced most of day one to be abandoned, experienced more trouble today when a sharp downpour made the fourth green unplayable.

It means that instead of playing 36 holes today, only 34 will be played in what is now a 70 hole competition at the normally par 72 course.

And Els and Goosen will be difficult to catch as both looked in fine form in the co-sanctioned European and Sunshine Tour event as they aimed to end recent title droughts.

Goosen, a two-time major winner, said: “We’re both playing solid, there were a couple of bad holes out there and also some good holes. Hopefully we can keep it going.”

Current Open champion Louis Oosthuizen is the closest to them after a five under 64 today took him to 15 under, while another rising South African star, Charl Schwartzel, is on 13 under following his 66.

Three players are a further shot back – Martin Maritz (65) as well as French duo Victor Riu (65) and Romain Wattel (68) – while Robert Rock is the highest placed Englishman.

He recorded a five under par round of 64 and is in a group of four players on 11 under with Alexander Cejka (66), Tim Clark (65) and Thorbjorn Olesen (65) beside him.

Reflecting on his chances in the tournament, Rock said: “I don’t think there’s much of a chance of winning, but there’s a decent chance of making a top 10 or top five finish, unless I shoot a really, really low round this afternoon.

“I was a bit rushed this morning, so it was nice to shoot a decent score.”

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