European Tour

SA's Justin Harding in the hunt for 2nd European Tour title

Justin Harding
Justin Harding
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  • South African golfer Justin Harding trails Italy's Renato Paratore heading into the final round of the British Masters.
  • If Harding holds off his competitors at Close House GC, it will be his second European Tour title.
  • This is Harding's first competitive event since the Qatar Masters in March.

South Africa's Justin Harding is in contention for his second European Tour title ahead of the final round of the British Masters at Close House GC in Kent.

Italy's Renato Paratore holds a one-shot lead over Harding, with Paratore looking to become the first player to win a European Tour event without scoring a bogey since Sweden's Jesper Parnevik achieved the feat 1995.

Harding, who carded a five-under 66 in the third round, admitted that things "could've gone better" but was pleased with his overall performance on Friday.

"I was solid from tee to green today, I really was, didn't make too many mistakes," said Harding, who appeared in his first competitive event since the Qatar Masters in March.

"It could have been a good one but at the end of the day it was all about putting yourself in position for tomorrow and I feel like I've done that... It was more about just hanging in there and giving yourself and opportunity going into tomorrow."

If Harding succeeds on Saturday, the 34-year-old will hoist his second European Tour title, having also triumphed at the Qatar Masters in 2019.

"I am (pretty excited). I have put [in] a lot of hard work in the last few months and it feels like the game is there or thereabouts," said Harding.

"I felt like I've managed my game again and I'm mentally sound, so I'm hoping for a good final day and we'll see what happens."

Harding will feature in the final group pairing on Saturday alongside Paratore with their round commencing at 14:30 SA time.

The European Tour began its UK swing - a six-event series - behind closed doors this week due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Harding revealed that it's quite awkward not playing in front of crowds, and joked that he often finds himself clapping following a birdie.

"It's a bit awkward. It's interesting but I think I've kind of switched off from that now," he said.

"I enjoy the crowds, I love having them there and they add their own atmosphere to it, but at the end of the day with or without them you've still got to go and get the job done. I clap to myself every time I go and get a birdie but it's not too bad."

Only three of the eight South Africans to have started this week's tournament made the cut. The others to have made the cut apart from Harding were Haydn Porteous (-3) and Brandon Stone (+7).

Leading third-round scores in the British Masters at Close House Golf Club, Newcastle, England, on Friday (GBR/IRL unless stated, par 71): 

197 - Renato Paratore (ITA) 65-66-66

198 - Justin Harding (RSA) 69-63-66

199 - Rasmus Hojgaard (DEN) 66-67-66

200 - Dale Whitnell 68-64-68

201 - Ashley Chesters 67-66-68, Sam Horsfield 70-70-61

202 - Robert Rock 69-66-67

203 - Ben Stow 67-68-68, Adrian Meronk (POL) 69-68-66, Jonathan Caldwell (NIR) 67-69-67

204 - Andy Sullivan 68-69-67, Jack Senior 71-70-63, Oliver Fisher 65-69-70

205 - Ryan Fox (NZL) 67-67-71, Pedro Figueiredo (POR) 66-69-70, Rikard Karlberg (SWE) 69-70-66, Jens Fahrbring (SWE) 68-69-68, Aaron Rai 69-70-66, Richard Bland 69-70-66, Eddie Pepperell 67-69-69, Jordan Smith 69-69-67, Matthew Jordan 68-68-69, Calum Hill 67-66-72

- Compiled by Lynn Butler

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