George Coetzee takes the lead in Portugal Masters in Vilamoura

d752e345 6f15 5599 8c9a f3f2324a34e1 - George Coetzee takes the lead in Portugal Masters in Vilamoura

VILAMOURA – George Coetzee will take a slender one shot lead into the final round of the Portugal Masters after successfully hunting down runaway halfway leader Julien Guerrier on Saturday afternoon.

The South African produced a remarkable eagle-birdie finish on day three to sign for an impressive 66 and move to 11 under par.

Coetzee had started the day eight shots behind Guerrier but the Frenchman’s five stroke overnight advantage turned into a one shot deficit after he failed to make a single birdie in his four over par 75.

And when the final group walked off the 18th green, four time European Tour winner Coetzee found himself alone at the top of the leaderboard.

Masahiro Kawamura was alongside Guerrier in a tie for second on ten under after carding eight birdies and two bogeys in his Saturday 65.

Coetzee came into the week with a spring in his step after winning the Titleist Championship at Pretoria Country Club on the Sunshine Tour last week and he put himself in a very strong position to claim back to back victories on day three.

He reached the turn in 34 shots after sandwiching a bogey on the seventh between birdies at the fourth and eighth.

After taking advantage of the par four 15th for the third day in a row, Coetzee came agonisingly close to holing his approach into the long 17th for an albatross but had to settle for a tap-in eagle to climb to ten under.

And he finished off with a confident 12 foot birdie putt at the last to get to 11 under.

Coetzee was extremely happy with his eagle on the 17th but admitted an albatross would have been something special.

He said: “It would have been nice.

“I was actually watching earlier on in the week, the top ten shots they have had at this event and I didn’t think anything of it until I saw that ball rolling and I thought ‘Ah, this could be number one!’ but in the end I’m really happy where it finished.

“I was fortunate enough to be right next to Laurie (Canter) and he hit six iron rather smooth, so it made it an easy decision for me to lift the seven iron and it ended up being the perfect club.

“I kind of felt like I was in a good space today and I didn’t really get going on the front nine, missed a couple of good opportunities on the back nine with the first couple of holes, but then when I started finally making them it was smooth sailing from there.

“It was a bit of a grind but you just have to hold on tight until you get a good opportunity.”

Guerrier opened his third round with a stunning up-and-down from a bad lie in the rough at the first before narrowly missing lengthy birdie putts at the second and third to stay on 14 under par.

He was unable to keep a bogey off the card at the fourth despite a lovely bunker shot, with his 12 foot par putt just missing the hole.

Guerrier was battling hard, making important par saves to remain in front rather than creating chances to extend his lead.

He dropped another shot on the ninth after missing his par effort from 26 feet before beginning the back nine with two solid pars.

Further bogeys came at the 15th and 16th to send Guerrier tumbling from the top of the leaderboard, but he finished with pars at the 17th and 18th to head into the final round just one shot back.

“It was difficult for me, it’s like that but not the end of the world,” he said. “It was breezy but I had a few bad lies.

“On the fourth I was close to the fairway, maybe one metre away, but it was tough to get on the green and my iron game was not perfect.

“I was maybe too safe, a little out of position, and then after you are trying to force but you don’t have the game, you are not having a good day, but you try your best.

“I will go now to practise and try to find a positive way. I am just one behind.”

Niklas Lemke and Laurie Canter shared fourth place on nine under after firing rounds of 65 and 68 respectively.

European Tour

d752e345 6f15 5599 8c9a f3f2324a34e1 - George Coetzee takes the lead in Portugal Masters in Vilamoura

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