Watson the man to beat at Volvo SA Mid-Amateur
Graeme Watson gave himself the ideal opportunity to notch victory at the Volvo South African Mid-Amateur Stroke Play Championship as he snatched the outright lead in the third round at Ruimsig Country Club on Thursday.
Close to the form that saw Watson hold the number one ranking for more than two years, the joint overnight leader crafted a two-under-par 70 for a four shot lead on five under 211.
Joint leader Steve Williams returned a 74 to slip to second, while home crowd hero Johan Nel matched the leader’s score to move third at 216.
An eagle at the par-four 15th broke a stretch of nine pars and helped former Sanlam SA Amateur champion Ryan Dreyer to a 71. The former professional shares fourth with Barry Sundelson (74), Sean Quigley (71), and Ruimsig’s Kevin Strydom, who fired a 67 for the low round of the day.
Meanwhile a 74 left defending champion Greg Sheard tied for eighth with Ruimsig’s Leon de Lange (70) on three over, while 2012 champion Neil Homann slipped to joint 12th after a 75.
All eyes will be on Watson, who showed little sign of the knee injury that derailed his season midway through 2013 and dropped him from the top spot to eighth in the rankings.
The 47-year-old bogeyed the third and fifth, but erased the damage with birdies at the sixth and ninth to turn in even-par.
“I was hitting the ball very well, and I picked up two more birdies at the 10th and 13th,” he said. “I had two three-putts but I didn’t miss a green from the second until I got to the 16th.
“The tee shot went right and ended in the rough, and cost me a shot. But it was nice to take my revenge with a birdie at the last.”
Watson was scheduled to have a knee-replacement in February, but the Super Group Dealerships CEO had to put off the surgery to travel abroad.
The possibility of winning one of Volvo’s prized events and the chance to square away a spot in the four-man team flying to France in July to compete in the International Team Mid-Amateur may mean that pushing the surgery back even further.
“I would do it with a smile on my face, because this is the chance to realize two dreams, the chance to win the mid-amateur circuit’s Major and an outside chance to represent South African abroad,” Watson said.
“The win will comes with a lot of points, and it may just be enough to propel me back into the top four so I can make the team for France. It’s fantastic that we finally have an international event of this stature to play for and I am definitely going to give it my best shot.
“That’s two huge things to play for. I’ve been hitting it really well this week and the kind of scores I’m producing is feeding my confidence. I don’t like to get ahead of myself, but it will probably be weighing on my mind in the final round. I just need to go out there and get the job done.”
THIRD ROUND SCORES (top 10):
211 – Graeme Watson 70 71 70
215 – Steve Williams 70 71 74
216 – Johan Nel 71 75 70
218 – Ryan Dreyer 77 70 71; Sean Quigley 75 72 71; Barry Sundelson 74 70 74; Kevin Strydom 72 79 67
219 – Leon de Lange 74 75 70; Greg Sheard 72 73 74
220 – David Muller 72 79 69; Derek Reyneke 72 77 71
Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the South African Golf Association.