It wasn’t really the weather for playing golf or even flying kites at Sun City on Saturday as the third round of the South African Open was unable to be completed, heavy thundershowers cutting short Justin Harding’s high-flying ascent to the top of the leaderboard.
Harding had just teed off on the 14th hole, having gone to 11-under-par and a one-stroke lead over Danie van Tonder and Oliver Bekker, when the siren signifying play had been suspended due to the threat of lightning went off at 1.05pm.
It bucketed down for the next two hours, more than 30mm falling, and a typical Pilanesberg maelstrom was accompanied by heavy winds that had the trees waving around like flags at times.
But the organisers were hopeful of getting play back underway at 4pm, only for another storm to arrive, this time depositing a quick 8mm. A putative restart time of 5pm was then in place, but the storms just kept circulating over the ancient concentric rings of volcanic mountains that surround the Gary Player Country Club.
With the thunder and lightning never really going away, the day’s play was called off at 5pm. The third round, with the leaders having five holes to play, will be completed from 7am on Sunday and tournament director Reinard Kilian said they were hopeful of completing the final round in the afternoon.
“The safety of the players is what determined our decisions, that’s the first thing we think about,” Killian said. “The storms were predicted from 2pm and we changed the draw to try and finish by then.
“Unfortunately the storms got to us quicker than expected and then they just wouldn’t go away. And it was quite an intense, violent storm. Unfortunately every time we saw a window of opportunity to get play underway again, it would close with another storm popping up.
“There’s a chance of moderate rain tomorrow [Sunday] in the early morning and showers through the day. Thunderstorms are possible, but there’s not as high a likelihood as today.
“So we have a good feeling that we can complete the tournament tomorrow [Sunday]. The fairways should still be playable and we’re confident we can sort the bunkers out. The course should be as playable as it was this morning,” Killian said.
Harding became the co-leader with his third birdie on the front nine and, when overnight leader Oliver Bekker bogeyed the par-four ninth it meant he surrendered at least a share of first place for the first time in the tournament.
Bekker then bogeyed the par-three 13th shortly before play was suspended, meaning Harding’s punishment for a bogey on the 10th was shortlived.
Van Tonder was also flying on Saturday, also collecting three birdies on the front nine.