Easy does it for Darren ahead of Tshwane Open

For his eighth tournament in eight weeks, Darren Fichardt is understandably taking things a bit easier than normal ahead of the inaugural Tshwane Open which gets underway on Thursday.

“The Els Club Copperleaf is 10 minutes from my home, so it’s really great to sleep in my own bed during tournament week,” said Fichardt who won the Africa Open in East London on February 17.

The €1.5-million event, which is co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and the European Tour, is the latest such tournament to be played in South Africa, and victory for Fichardt will make him the first player since Branden Grace burst on to the scene to win two consecutive European Tour events.

“After so many tournaments in a row, I’m not hitting as many balls on the range in preparation for this week,” said Fichardt.

He added: “It’s great to have a European Tour event in my home town. There’s been a really nice swing of tournaments in South Africa, so hopefully I can finish it off nicely. I’m sure all the guys are really going to enjoy playing at Copperleaf. It’s designed by Ernie and is in very good condition, especially the greens which are unbelievable. It’s also very long, so to have a good week you’re going to need your driver to perform well.

“As it’s quite an exposed course, there’s normally a little bit of wind to keep you on your toes. It’s definitely going to be hot and humid and with a pretty high chance of some thunderstorms, so there could be a few weather disruptions. But I’m sure it’s going to be a great week and I’ll have some friends and family coming along, so hopefully I can give them something to shout about.”

His victory in East London was Fichardt’s fourth European Tour title after holding off compatriot Jaco van Zyl and Frenchman Grégory Bourdy to prevail by two strokes.

He followed up that victory with a top 10 finish behind Van Zyl in last week’s Dimension Data Pro-Am on the Sunshine Tour, and so is understandably confident of continuing his fine form.

And a lot of that form has been shown on the greens: His putting has been pretty impressive. “It takes a lot of pressure off the rest of your game,” he said. “You don’t have to try and get your iron shots so close to the pin, and that helps if they’re in tough positions.”

That putting could be very useful on the 7,123-metre (7,791-yard) Copperleaf layout: While he is 71st in driving distance (289.4 yards) on the European Tour, he is ninth in putts per greens in regulation (1.691) – only Garth Mulroy in the field is ahead of him in that count. He also averages 6.35 one-putts per round.

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