SA’s Euro pros back for Vodacom Origins event

A quartet of European Tour campaigners is in the Winelands this week as the Vodacom Origins of Golf resumes with the third tournament on this year’s series at the De Zalze Golf Club.

Darren Fichardt, Keith Horne, Jaco van Zyl and Jbe’ Kruger will head the field when this Sunshine Tour event tees off on Wednesday as part of a series celebrating the career of Retief Goosen and his contribution to South African golf.

Fichardt is looking for his fourth win on the Vodacom Origins of Golf series, and comes armed with the confidence of his European Tour victory in France just over a month ago.

And with the Cape weather remarkably like Europe at the moment and a growing band of South Africans on the European Tour, perhaps the only indication that Fichardt is not in France this week is that you have more wineries named Kanonkop, Uitkyk and Knorhoek than the odd Le Bonheur.

The Pretoria professional is essentially hoping to work on his game before heading back to Europe. But he’s not ruling out a victory on a Vodacom Origins series that has been very good to him over the years.

He has three wins on the series in 2006, 2009 and 2011, and two second-place finishes in 2008 and 2009.

“When I won the Saint-Omer Open in France, it was in such tough conditions that I was using half backswings and punching shots into the wind. Then I struggled a bit after that with my game. So that’s why I’m back home to work on a few things, and I can feel I’m getting closer to winning a big one.”

Yet Fichardt believes his European Tour experience doesn’t give him that much of an edge over the rest of the field. “The level here is just as good as over there. Obviously the list of potential winners is deeper there. But the players here are just as good. It’s just a matter of them getting on the tours, taking that leap of faith and playing tour schools. I think we’d have a lot more players doing well on the world stage if they just had the opportunity of getting overseas.”

And with South African golf still basking in Ernie Els’s Open triumph, Fichardt – who has been on and off the European Tour for over a decade now – has himself marvelled at the growing number of South Africans competing internationally.

“Before it was just three or four of us at events. Now there are 13 of us around a dinner table. We’ve got a bigger chance of playing well each week. You see the other South Africans doing well and it inspires you.”

But one area where he will have a distinct advantage is dealing with any challenging weather over the next three days.

“The weather’s been a factor the last three months overseas, so I’m fine with whatever we get here,” said Fichardt.

By Michael Vlismas

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