Darren Fichardt turned home-course advantage into a seven-under-par 65 on Wednesday to lead the first round of the R500,000 Telkom PGA Pro-Am at Centurion Country Club.
He had a two-stroke edge over defending champion Jaco van Zyl, who three-putted the 18th to slip back to 67 for his first round back in South Africa after a lengthy return trip following his share of third in the Omega European Masters last week.
ÂOn your home course, you know where not to go,Â said Fichardt, Âand when not to attack for birdies.Â
He certainly showed the way around the 6,700-metre layout as he didnÂt drop a single shot, while Van Zyl Â admittedly tired from his flight back from Europe Â made what he called a Âsilly bogeyÂ on three and then closed his round with an uncharacteristically weak approach putt before his second lipped out.
Fichardt said that it was not too much of a surprise that Van Zyl battled on the greens: ÂEven though I live here, I can never work these greens out. They always catch me,Â he laughed.
He had 29 putts in his round during which he missed only two greens, so he had a point about leaving a few putts out there.
Fichardt is returning to form after his win in the Vodacom Origins of Golf event last month at the Wild Coast Sun and his share of fifth in the Simola event in the same series the previous month, and he credited a return to his old swing for the resurgence.
ÂI was playing really badly at the end of last year,Â he said, Âand you could see it in the summer events when I was swinging to try and prevent injury.
ÂBut IÂm strong again, and IÂm swinging the way I was before. ItÂs one thing getting your swing right, but youÂve got to build on confidence to go with it,Â he added.
Van Zyl not only had to contend with his exhaustion from travel, but he also had to stay at a local hospital until 11pm the night before he teed off to see his children both have grommets inserted in their ears.
Despite all the setbacks, Van Zyl is determined to do well. ÂNo-oneÂs really here for a haircut,Â he said. ÂWe all want to win and thatÂs my main objective.
ÂMy yardages are still a little bit out and IÂm not quite used to the hard, fast golf courses in Africa yet,Â he added.
Van Zyl had a one-stroke edge over Justin Walters and Alex Haindl, who each carded four-under-par 68, with a group of nine players on three-under 69 in a share of fifth ahead of the second round of the 54-hole tournament.