JACOB Zuma, the South African president, may have taken centre stage here yesterday as he addressed the 101st anniversary rally of the African National Congress at Kings Park but, in a sporting sense, the limelight across the road at Durban Country Club was being enjoyed by Scott Jamieson.
In the same city where he recorded a maiden European Tour triumph in the weather-shortened Nelson Mandela Championship – that was played at Royal Durban – last month, the 29-year-old from East Kilbride holds a five-shot lead heading into the final round of the £1.6 million Volvo Golf Champions.
After a third-day 68 – he outscored overnight leader and playing partner Louis Oosthuizen by six shots – that moved him to 15-under-par, Jamieson, right, has a £283,000 top prize in his sights and knows a Durban double would also deliver welcome additional rewards.
For starters, a second success on South Africa’s south-east coast in the space of five weeks would take him back into top spot in the Race to Dubai ahead of Charl Schwartzel, an absentee this week. It would also catapult the world No.100 very close, if not into, the top 50, where the former Augusta State student needs to be at the end of March to secure his Masters debut this year.
“I didn’t play as well as I did the first two days, especially from tee to green, but I managed to score well,” said Jamieson of his day’s work. “I don’t feel as though I have to prove anything. But, if I could win here, it would be some sort of validation for the event last month being reduced due to 36 holes as you can’t get better than beating the other champions [from the 2012 calendar year on the European Tour].”
Jamieson took playing with Padraig Harrington and Thomas Bjorn in his stride on the opening two days, outscoring each of them. Partnering Oosthuizen in front of a South African crowd, however, was a different prospect altogether, as the Scot discovered when the polite welcome he received on the first tee was followed by a much more vociferous one for the home player.
A dropped shot at the first, where he pulled his approach from the middle of the fairway, might not have augured well for Jamieson as he immediately fell two shots behind his playing partner but, in a remarkable turnaround, the Scot had forged four shots ahead of the 2010 Open champion by the time they reached the turn.
To the disappointment of those expectant South African supporters, Oosthuizen was strangely out of sorts. His chipping and putting were especially poor, he hit a half-shank at the seventh then followed that with a pushed drive at the next that found a bush and, after taking a penalty drop, cost him a bogey-6.
In truth, Jamieson wasn’t exactly firing on all cylinders either on that outward journey, the difference between him and his playing partner being two holes. Jamieson almost had a hole-in-one at the second, where his ball pitched about six inches in front of the hole and trickled past the edge.
Then, at the eighth, a hole where many have come to grief this week off the tee, the Scot made an eagle-3, two near-perfect shots and a straightforward putt from no more than four feet there seeing him enjoy a three-shot swing on both Oosthuizen and Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee, who had also strayed into the bushes on the right in the game in front.
It meant Jamieson and Jaidee were locked together in the lead at 12-under, but the Scot quickly spurted ahead. Repeating a feat he managed twice in the second round, he reeled off a hat-trick of birdies, the pick of which was the first one as he chipped in from 25 yards over a bunker at the 11th.
When Jaidee missed a short par putt at the 16th, Jamieson was four in front, by which time the weather had turned nasty - the third day in a row players had found themselves scurrying to put on waterproofs. Jamieson seems to revel in such conditions and signed off with a birdie to hold a commanding lead over Oosthuizen (74), Jaidee (73) and Frenchman Julien Quesne (67).
On the 2014 Ryder Cup captaincy front, all was quiet compared to the previous few days, though Henrik Stenson, a member of the committee making the decision in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, taking exception to a Scottish tabloid report claiming he wanted Colin Montgomerie to get the job again at Gleneagles perhaps indicated that is not, in fact, the case.