Darren Fichardt stormed into a four-way share of the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the third round of the Tshwane Open on Saturday.
Almost two hours of play were lost in mid-afternoon when a thunderstorm forced players from the Els Club course at the Copperleaf Golf Estate. When play resumed, Fichardt, who’s looking for a second straight Race to Dubai success, birdied his closing three holes in a round that was just one shot shy of the course record.
Fichardt, who lives 10 minutes from the course, moved to a 16-under total with Chilean Mark Tullo (67) and fellow South Africans Charl Coetzee (68) and Dawie Van Der Walt (67).
”I’m really chuffed with how I finished up,” said Fichardt, who was on the 15th green when play was halted. ”The delay made me settle down and just think about things. I had about 20 minutes to read the line and then I made that putt and finished with three good birdies.
”My putter obviously got hotter as I was sitting waiting for the delay to finish.”
If he, Coetzee or Van Der Walt win, either would be the fifth South African-born winner in 10 events on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai schedule.
”A European double victory would mean a lot, but I don’t want to think about it too much,” said Fichardt, who won the Joburg Open two weeks ago. ”It would mean a huge amount, especially to take a win here in Pretoria and so close to my home, and with so many family and friends here to support me.”
But while Fichardt has won before on the European and Sunshine Tours, Tullo, Coetzee and Van Der Walt have yet to win on either tour.
Tullo has captured three Chile Opens and won also on the secondary European Challenge Tour, while Van Fer Walt, has four wins on the U.S. Hooters Tour. A win for the Cape Town-based Coeztee would be a double celebration, as he turns 32 on Monday.
”It’s just been so much fun,” Coetzee said. ”This whole week has been a new experience for me and I’ve loved every minute of it, so I’m just looking forward so much to tomorrow now.”
Fellow South African Louis De Jager (65) was one shot behind the leading four, while American Peter Uihlein (68) was two off the lead.