Darren Fichardt birdied the longest par-5 in European Tour history to lead the inaugural Tshwane Open by one stroke after the first round on Thursday.
Fichardt was one of three players in the top 24 to need only four shots on the 685-yard fourth hole.
”I hit driver, 3-iron, 7-iron and holed a 12-foot putt,” Fichardt said. ”But I mean, at that length, into the wind and with the fairways not running, it’s not a fun hole.”
The South African, who lives 10 minutes from the Els Club course at the Copperleaf Golf and Country Estate, shot a 7-under-par 65. That was one better than Bjorn Akesson of Sweden and two better than a group of six.
Of the major winners in the field, Darren Clarke opened with a 3-under 69, Michael Campbell a 72 and Jose Maria Olazabal 76.
”This golf course is awesome, it’s very fair,” Fichardt said. ”The greens are very soft, so you’re able to attack the flags.”
He birdied his first hole, the 10th, made four more to the turn, and walked into the clubhouse with three more birdies and a bogey on the easiest hole, the par-4 7th.
Two weeks ago, Fichardt captured a fourth European Tour title in winning the Africa Open at East London. Last week, he was seventh in a Sunshine Tour event.
”I’ve been playing for eight weeks in a row, and I don’t even know what’s going on,” he said. ”I’m just going with the flow and hitting one shot at a time, so I’m looking forward to a break after this week.”
Akesson joined Fichardt in the lead after birdies at 13 and 14 and an eagle-3 at the 15th. However, Akesson bogeyed the 17th to drop into second.
The big group tied for third included the English pair of David Howell and Gary Lockerbie, the South African duo of Charl Coetzee and Jean Hugo, India’s Jeev Milkha Singh and Chile’s Mark Tullo.