Fichardt wins Vodacom event in wild finish

Darren Fichardt was comfortably ensconced in the clubhouse on Friday as he won the R540,000 Vodacom Origins of Golf event at the Wild Coast Sun Country Club.

“That’s the biggest margin I have ever overcome to win a tournament,” said Fichardt of his 11th victory on the Sunshine Tour, on the 5,807-metre layout where he won the 2009 Nashua Masters.

In second place was David Hewan on five-under for the tournament, with five players on three-under, including the 36-hole leader Jean Hugo.

Fichardt’s bogey-free 64 included a homeward nine of five-under-par 30, which featured an eagle three on the 441-metre 12th, and three birdies – a stark contrast to the way Hugo fared on the back nine.

Hugo turned in three-under-par 32 with a five-stroke advantage at that point, and he looked as if he might falter down the stretch when he, but it seemed to be only a glimmer of hope for his pursuers as he bogeyed the 10th and the 14th.

After all, he was on course for his second title in the series in a fortnight, and his third overall for the year.

But he dropped another on 15 and then got himself into deep trouble on the 16th which saw the lead eventually go to Fichardt as he made double-bogey seven. He hit his tee shot into a lateral water hazard, but was able to play it out sideways. But his third was straight into the water and his chances of a third victory in the series sank in that watery grave.

“When I reached the turn,” said Fichardt, “Jean had already reached eight-under-par, but I looked at the leaderboard, and I was 17th. So I thought I’d give it a good go and see if I could get into the top 10.”

He did more than that: He capped a return to the winner’s circle for the first time since February 2010, and made his 2011 Sunshine Tour record read a lot better for him than just three top-10 finishes.

“I’ve been hitting the ball well since my return from my shoulder injury,” he said. “I have made a few little swing changes to get rid of bad habits I’d developed with the injuries, and, when I changed to a mallet-type putter, things started going well.”

He was also helped by the wind which gathered strength all day and exacerbated the errors that Hugo started making.

Hewan also welcomed the wind: “I didn’t think the wind would stay away for two days in a row,” he said, “and when I felt it on the fourth, I welcomed it back!”

For Hugo, with two more tournaments in the series, there is still a chance he could become the third player to win three – he would join Thomas Aiken who won three in 2004 and Brandon Pieters who won three in 2009.

Further down the field, Grant Veenstra made a charge at the lead with his opening nine, carding his first 29 in tournament play. But a bogey on 12 and a double-bogey on 18 saw him slip to two-under for the tournament and a share of eighth.

And Colin Nel, who ended up bringing up the rear of the field after a final round of five-over-par 75, also got a career first when he aced the 156-metre eighth with an eight-iron. He won a luxury pen for his efforts.

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