Harare - JC Ritchie signed for a 71 in round three of the Old Mutual Zimbabwe Open, and despite his putter refusing to cooperate on the back nine where he made three bogeys and no birdies, he still takes a two-shots lead into the final round at Royal Harare Golf Club.
His front nine was solid, though. He opened his round with back-to-back pars before making an eagle on the par-five third hole. Those gains were quickly cut in half as he dropped a shot on the following hole but he responded expertly by making three birdies before the turn.
Once he turned, everything changed. He made five straight pars from the 10th through to the 14th, and that’s when things took a turn for the worst for the defending champion. He dropped his second shot of the round on the par-three 13th and looked like he’d steadied himself when he took a par on the difficult par-five 15th.
That was not the case because two more bogeys – on 17th and the last hole – got onto his card to make his homeward stretch on the day three the worst he’s had in recent times.
"I started off so nicely today," he said,
"It’s just that the putter went a little bit cold on the back nine. I lost the speed of the greens a little bit and managed to hit two or three putts through the break. It just went a little bit southward on the back nine."
He admitted, however, that the back nine here is not the easiest and that it will always punish players when not careful.
"It’s very demanding," he said of that stretch.
"You need to hit some good shots. 15, 14, 13, those, that’s a really good stretch of holes. 17 and 18 are really good holes as well and those are the ones that bit me."
Despite a challenging outing on Saturday, Ritchie still had some positives to draw from the testing round.
"I drove the ball a lot better today. I still hit some really good second shots," he said.
203 - JC Ritchie 66 66 71
205 - Tyrone Ferreira 70 71 64, Christiaan Basson 70 68 67
206 - Peter Karmis 71 68 67, Jake Roos 70 68 68, Vaughn Groenewald 67 70 69
207 - Steve Surry 70 71 66, Jack Harrison 70 68 69, Jean Hugo 70 68 69, Jaco Ahlers 72 64 71