SUN CITY - There were only supposed to be nine South Africans hunting “Africa’s Major” this week, but when the Nedbank Golf Challenge got underway on Thursday morning there were all of a sudden 10 locals in the field, with the addition overnight of Joburg Open winner and reserve Darren Fichardt.
It has been quite a 48-hour period for the 42-year-old from Centurion, who on Wednesday night was still braaing with his family and then teeing off a few hours later at the US$7.5-million tournament at 9am the next morning.
The withdrawal from the tournament by England’s Anthony Wall late on Wednesday because of injury meant a place was open for a reserve and Fichardt only found out early on Thursday - hours before his tee time - that he’d be playing in the tournament. He shot a one-under-par 71, but it could have been a whole lot better.
He explained what had gone down in the hours before joining playing partners Victor Dubuisson and Nacho Elvira on the 10th.
“I phoned to check what the status was of the field and the tour office were about to phone me and ask if I was available to play,” explained Fichardt. “I was in shock. I was still braaing at 12 o’clock the previous night.
“They asked if I would make it at nine and I said I didn’t know, the first tee time? I jumped in my car and raced through, taking a few risks along the way. I left my keys at reception, told them I was needed at the tee and off I went.”
The “shocking” events didn’t end there. Fichardt birdied his first two holes and also the 14th and 17th, with a bogey at 12 to be joint-leader at the halfway mark of his round. He struggled on his back nine though - holes one to nine - making bogeys at five and six, to finish at one-under, four off the pace.
“It’s not a course I’d have to prepare for ... I’ve played it plenty of times,” he said.
“I’ve also won here a few times so I know what to do and what not to do. Those two bogeys on my back nine though were weak, probably because of a bit of fatigue.”
Knowing he’s in the thick of things Fichardt will no doubt be a little more focused on Friday as he goes out for the second round; his tee time being at 9.44am on the first.