Gonnet looks to go against the grain
Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Gonnet has understandably operated almost exclusively in Europe during his six years as a pro, but is playing in the Sunshine Tour's co-sanctioned events for the third time.
And it might just be third time lucky as he goes into the final round of the Joburg Open just two shots off the lead after shooting an excellent four-under-par 67 at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club on Saturday.
He has been there and thereabouts previously in South Africa, finishing 26th and 21st in the last two Africa Opens, but missing the cut in four other tournaments on these shores. A major reason for that is his uncertainty on the greens, which is understandable given that the putting surfaces here are totally different to what he experiences in the other 10 months of the year.
"I missed a few opportunities for birdies on the last five holes. But European greens are totally different to these because we don't have any grain, so I find these greens difficult to read.
"You can play real good from tee to green, but a lot can happen once you are there, so to win you have to putt well. The greens were also a bit slow today," Gonnet said after roaring into a tie for fifth place after the third round.
Gonnet began the penultimate day in a tie for 11th place on nine-under, but made a fine start with a birdie on the par-four first hole. Unfortunately for the 28-year-old, he gave the shot right back with a bogey on the par-three second hole.
But the man from Cannes was on fire as he neared the turn, grabbing three successive birdies from the seventh hole and then adding another at the par-three 12th. His storming run died away thereafter, but he is still well-placed to chase his first European Tour win on Sunday and a life-changing two-year exemption.
"It was tough to get my card last year, I had to finish in the top 10 of my last tournament to get it. But I'm just going to enjoy my golf tomorrow, I'm not going to focus on winning. It's my third year playing in South Africa and I really enjoy it," Gonnet said.