South Africa's Darren Fichardt speaks with his caddie during the first round. Photo: Paul Childs/Reuters

WENTWORTH – Darren Fichardt, who had missed the cut at the past seven European PGA Championships, shot a superb six under par 66 in the first round of this year's edition on Thursday.

The 43-year-old South African -- who had three birdies on both the outward and homeward nines - joined compatriot Dean Burmester atop the leaderboard in the clubhouse at Wentworth.   
Burmester had the more spectacular with four birdies and an eagle in the last seven holes.

However, Fichardt produced the greater surprise given his wretched history at the event.

“Obviously I'm very, very happy,” said Fichardt. “On this golf course, everything's got to be good."

“So this time of the year, usually for me has never been good but I took quite a few weeks off to prepare for this stretch of events. Looks like I made a good choice. We'll see what happens but I'm playing well.”

Darren Fichardt in action during the first round. Photo: Paul Childs/Reuters
Darren Fichardt in action during the first round. Photo: Paul Childs/Reuters

Fichardt, a five-time winner on the European Tour, said his round could have been even better. 

“You know, I was playing well and felt like I could birdie every hole,” said Fichardt. “I know the main thing for me, the last 12 years, it's crucial to hit fairways. If you hit fairways, you've got a good chance at the greens.

“There's a lot of sucker pins out there, so you need to respect the course, but there are a few birdies out there and I putted really, really well. So the opportunities I did have, I did make.”

The Zimbabwe-born Burmester suggested his sparkling homeward display could be just the catalyst he was looking for to get his season into gear.

“Yeah, it's been quiet. It's not been the season I really wanted, barring one round in Mexico, it's been really quiet,” said the 28-year-old.

“This is a good place to kind of kick-start the year and I'm looking forward to the next three days.”

Despite Fichardt's dreadful record at Wentworth, Burmester said it is a course and a tournament that he and his fellow South Africans find to their liking.
“Yeah, the South Africans are all geared up,” he said.

“Most of us have had a bit of time off, so it's been nice, nice to get back and I think all of us love Wentworth.”