Indian Shubhankar Sharma fired a flawless 65 Saturday to build a five-shot lead after three rounds of the Joburg Open at Randpark Golf Club in Johannesburg.
The 21-year-old, who is ranked 462 in the world, scored seven birdies over the par-72 Firethorn track in warm, partly overcast conditions and did not drop a shot.
Sharma rattled off four consecutive birdies from the second and had another at the ninth for an outward half of 31 on the suburban course.
He also birdied 14 and 15 before saving par at the final hole with a superb bunker shot and single putt in the tri-sanctioned European Tour, Asian Tour and South African Sunshine Tour event.
The incentives for Sharma to score a maiden senior tour victory include a place in the 2018 British Open field at Carnoustie next July.
Sharma recorded rounds of 69, 61 and 65 for a total of 195 — 20 under par overall — and is within sight of the record overall winning score for the Joburg Open of 27 under.
“I’m really happy,” said the Indian who is attempting to succeed South African Darren Fichardt as Joburg Open champion.
“I was really pleased with my reading of the greens, and I hit approach shots pretty close, which helped me make a very good start.
“Good approach shots are very important if you want to shoot low numbers. All in all, my putting has also been really good and I hope it keeps going like this tomorrow.”
Swede Christofer Blomstrand lies second following a sizzling 62, the second lowest round of the week after the second-round 61 of Sharma.
The Scandinavian celebrated his 26th birthday with a birdie, birdie, eagle, birdie streak from the second to make his intentions known.
Another two birdies saw him turn in 29, seven under, before a mixed second nine produced an eagle, three birdies and two bogeys.
“It is a really nice birthday present,” said Blomstrand. “I was really happy with my putter.
“I was hitting quite good shots in the beginning of my round, and then I holed them as well. It was a good start and I just tried to keep going from there.”
Blomstrand is on 200 following rounds of 70, 68 and 62, one stroke ahead of James Morrison of England and South African Eric van Rooyen.
Morrison carded a 67 and Van Rooyen a 70 in the third round, and both are realistic contenders for the top prize should Sharma falter.
Second-round leader Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland is one stroke further back on 203, sharing fifth place with Marcus Armitage of England, who shot a 67.
After rounds of 65 and 64, Pulkkanen slumped to a one-over 73 that included a double-bogey six at 16. He also carded three birdies and two bogeys.
Dylan Frittelli, the big pre-tournament hope of South Africans after winning the Mauritius Open last weekend, had a 71 and is out of contention 15 shots off the pace.