A childhood dream could well become a reality for Zander Lombard as he stands on the brink of the biggest victory of his career in the Nedbank Golf Challenge at the Gary Player Country Club today.
The South African, who considers this golf course at Sun City in North West his home turf because of his love for it, tees off the final round of “Africa’s Major” with a one-stroke lead on 11 under par.
Just behind him on 10 under is compatriot Louis Oosthuizen and Belgium’s Thomas Detry.
With one round to play, Lombard cannot help but think about what it would mean to win the Nedbank Golf Challenge and add his name to a list of some of the greatest golfers in the history of the game who have won this title and the R37 million prize.
“It’s a South African child’s dream to win this tournament. It’s Africa’s Major, it’s a home away from home for me. The money aside, it would just be great if I could give the fans what they want and hopefully pull it through,” Lombard said after a third round in which he showed tremendous character to keep himself at the top of the leader board.
He went into the third round two strokes clear of the field, but then drifted back with a bogey and then a double bogey in three holes approaching the turn.
He clawed his way back with birdies at holes nine and 10, added another two at 14 and 15, and then made bogey on 16 to sign for a 72.
“I just couldn’t get it going today. I was three over after eight and then fought hard to get it back to level par. But, all in all, I’m still in the lead. I’ve got to stay positive,” he said.
Lombard’s mental approach was indeed key as he had to battle a wayward driver on the front nine.
“I didn’t really make any mistakes, but I missed two or three fairways that put me behind the eight ball. You can’t attack this golf course from the rough.
“But I stuck to my guns and started driving it better, and it was much better golf on the back nine.”
Behind him, Oosthuizen is just as hungry for a win in Africa’s Major after coming close last year, but Lee Westwood beat him to the title.
A third-round 71 has kept him in the hunt for the title, but even he admits he’s going to need something better on the final day.
“It was very scrappy. I wasn’t on top of the irons and wasn’t hitting it close enough. You can’t expect to make birdies from a long way all the time. I need to find that swing I had in the first round,” he said.
Much like Lombard, though, Oosthuizen has his own dream to fulfil here.
“Growing up, this is the tournament you watched. You wanted to have your name on those plaques on the walkway to the ninth green. It would mean a lot [to win].”
Today, it’s going to be a question of who wants it more.