East London – Darren Fichardt fired a wind-swept third-round seven-under-par 65 on Saturday to take a share of the lead of the R1-million Africa Open Golf Challenge at East London Golf Club.
“The wind certainly picked up,” he said of his day on the course at East London Golf Club.
“It didn't feel like it in the fairways which are in little valleys, but it built up and made a difference.”
He shared the lead ahead of the final round of the event co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and the European Tour with his good friend Jaco van Zyl, who carded a four-under-par 68 of his own as the pair headed halfway leader Adilson Da Silva by two strokes after the Brazilian battled a sore back to a two-over-par 73 in the third round.
And while Fichardt is his own toughest critic, he acknowledged that his third round indicated to him he has what it takes to get in front in the final round.
“I'll play one hole at a time, one shot at a time,” he said.
“When I get annoyed, it's when something happens like it did on 17 Ä it was a real shock as I thought I had the right club off the tee and I thought it was going in the hole.
“Instead, I ended up five yards short of the green and I walked off with a bogey Ä that's definitely annoying.”
It was one of two bogeys on his card. The other came on the ninth, a hole which posed problems for a lot of players in the field as the day wore on. But seven birdies Ä including three in a row from 13 to 15 Ä and an eagle on three kept his charge going.
It was some beautiful putting which gave him those birdies and the eagle.
“I've been putting very well for the whole year,” he said.
“The putts on 13 and 14 were key today. Those were two beauties. At 13, I was just trying to get it close and it went in, and 14, I was just off the green on the left, and I knew the line and I felt confident over that.
“And obviously the putt on three for the eagle was a boost. It was about 20 feet, that putt, and the one on 13 was about 40 feet, and 14 was about 12 feet,” he added.
Van Zyl understood just how tough the stretch from 13 to 15 was where Fichardt made three birdies: He made par-bogey-birdie.
“I just wanted to make par and get out of there,” he said.
“In the end you take what you can. It would have been nice being 25-under-par, but I'll take 15 and see what tomorrow brings.”
Fichardt has three European Tour titles to his credit; Van Zyl is searching for his first, and they will go head-to-head in the final round.
”I know Jaco is going for his first win,” said Fichardt, “but he's going to have to get through me first.” – Sapa