10th November 2017 | Sunshine Tour
Fichardt’s memories keep him in Sun City chase
He has won at Sun City before, but Darren Fichardt must still be rubbing his eyes in disbelief as he sees his name on the upper reaches of the leaderboard at this year’s Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player.
He carded a second-round 69 to move into contention at the halfway stage of a tournament he wasn’t even meant to be playing. He was wakened in the early hours of Thursday morning, still slightly weary after a long and sociable braai the night before, and told that he was in the tournament all South African players want to play after the withdrawal of Anthony Wall.
“I phoned to check what the status was of the field and the tour office were about to phone me and ask if I was available to play,” explained Fichardt to reporters after his first round of one-under 71. “I was in shock. I was still braai-ing at 12 o’clock the previous night.
“They asked if I would make it at nine and I said I didn’t know. I jumped in my car and raced through, taking a few risks along the way. I left my keys at reception, told them I was needed at the tee and off I went.”
He won the Dimension Data Pro-Am on the Gary Player Country Club course back in 2004, so he has fond memories of the course. “I had a good final round here in 2004,” he recalled. “It was Nick Price and myself in the hunt there, and I managed to birdie the last hole to win by two. I relied a lot on past experience over the first two rounds.
“I know this course really well, and every opportunity I get, I come out here and play. So even though yesterday was the first time I’ve played here in two years, I knew exactly where to go and I knew the lines.”
And on a tough second day – the wind was unusually blustery at Sun City – his score was one of a handful under 70. “The elements were as tough as I’ve seen,” he said. “It’s so tough to commit to a shot when you don’t know whether it’s going to fly 170 or 120. And when you’re coming over water, it’s not the greatest feeling in the world.
“But I played really solidly today. I made a couple of putts, but I also missed a few. I made good decisions out there, and even when I hit some bad shots, I still had opportunities to make birdie. My only bogey was a silly three-putt. I didn’t play over-aggressively, because it was just a day to keep yourself in it. You can’t be a hero in the second round.”
After a season on the European Tour which included a win in the Joburg Open and a sixth place in the Omega European Masters, but not much else, really, getting into the Nedbank Golf Challenge has given him a chance to finish the season better than he had dared hope. “Getting in here has given me a back-door opportunity to get into DP World Championship next week,” he said. “And this being ‘Africa’s Major’, it’s pretty high up there on the list of tournaments that need to be played.”
He’s been around long enough to know he needs to be careful of getting ahead of himself with the weekend looming. “I’m just going to try and do the same thing over the weekend – just keep it in play, get on the greens and give myself opportunities,” he said. “I’m putting pretty well, so I hope a few drop and I’ll see where it takes me.”