He kept his cool in a remarkable way after giving away four strokes in three holes on Saturday, and Darren Fichardt’s patience paid off as he worked his way back into a one-stroke lead after a rain-hit third round of the 20th Dimension Data Pro-Am at Fancourt.
He finished the day on a total of 11-under-par after carding a level-par 72 on the Montagu course, leaving him one clear of Tjaart van der Walt, and a further shot ahead of Branden Grace. That was after all the players had completed a round on each of the Outeniqua and Montagu courses and The Links at Fancourt ahead of the cut to 65 players and ties.
“It was very difficult out there, especially the front nine,” said Fichardt. “It was raining, and although it didn’t feel like the wind was blowing that hard, gee, it blew big time. For example, I had 200 yards for a three-iron on the eighth. I hit it a beautiful three-iron into the middle of the dam! I couldn’t believe it. It must have flown 160!”
He finished up with a double-bogey five on that par-three, ending a horror run which started with a bogey on six and another on seven. But he hung on manfully and ground out his 72. “At one stage I told my caddie that if we could just be within three shots of the lead, then I’d be happy,” said Fichardt. “So I’m over the moon that I’m one clear again and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
He’s aware of the significance of having Grace snapping at his heels: The man who already has two European Tour titles under his belt this season – the Alfred Dunhill Championship and the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters – carded a three-under-par 69 to put himself in the perfect position to give chase in the final round.
“I’m not right up there, but I’m close enough for it to be a good day tomorrow,” said Grace.
He’s a member at Fancourt, and he found conditions trying too. “Normally, if the weather’s like this, I’m not playing any of these courses,” he laughed. “But it was a good test to play in weather like this. Luckily I hit some good shots which helped me get away with battling in the conditions.”
He finished strongly for the second day in a row: In his second round, he went five-under for his last four holes on The Links, and he was three-under for his last four on Montagu in the third round.
That kind of form will make him dangerous in a one-on-one duel with Fichardt in the final round.
But Fichardt is in a good frame of mind for facing that kind of challenge. “I’m still playing well,” he said. “I’m swinging well, I’m putting well, and everything’s looking good. With Grace up there, though, I’ve got a few things to think about.”
One of them is that he and Nick Price are the only two players to have won the tournament twice. So he could make history by getting a third title. “It’s just another tournament,” he says, deftly deflecting any pressure thise thoughts might bring.