Another SA winner at Africa Open
19 February 2013
Darren Fichardt captured the Africa Open Golf Challenge in East London on Sunday to continue the recent run of success by local golfers in European Tour events hosted in South Africa.
South African golfers have won four of the eight European Tour events so far contested in 2013, all of those victories coming in South Africa. Only Scotland's Scott Jamieson, with a win in the rain-shortened Nelson Mandela Championship, has managed to break SA's monopoly on home soil.
One more South African tournament remains on the 2013 European Tour schedule - the Tshwane Open, a new addition to the Tour, which takes place from 28 February to 3 March.
The Africa Open, co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and European Tour, has produced a South African winner every year since it began in 2008.
Fichardt won the latest edition by two shots over France's Gregory Bourdy and fellow South African Jaco van Zyl on Sunday, despite dropping three shots over the last five holes in winds that topped 60km/h. His 16-under-par total was worth €158 500 (R1.88-million).
The victory was his first European Tour win on home soil. "It's fantastic to win a European Tour event here at home," Fichardt said after securing the title. "I've won three times in Europe but I've always wanted to add a Sunshine Tour co-sanctioned event to my tally.
"To have my name on the trophy with Charl [Schwartzel], Retief [Goosen] and Louis [Oosthuizen] makes winning here in Buffalo City just so much more special."
Fichardt's other European Tour wins came in 2012 in the Saint-Omer Open, the Qatar Masters in 2003 and the Sao Paulo Brazil Open in 2001. In all three of his previous wins, as it was in East London, he either led or shared the lead heading into the final round.
Overall, it was Fichardt's 20 win as a professional and his 14th on the Sunshine Tour. It also earned him a place in next year's Volvo Golf Champions and a European Tour exemption until the end of 2014.
In addition, victory boosted him 46 places in the Official World Golf Rankings, up to 100th in the world.
Buoyed by winning the title, Fichardt said he wanted to lift the level of his game even higher. "I want to move that one step further. I've now won four times on the European Tour. I need to start getting into the majors and world events and contend in those events."
Adilson da Silva made the early running, reaching the halfway mark on 14-under-par 130 after rounds of 10-under-par 62 and four-under 68. That left him three shots clear of Jaco van Zyl, four ahead of John Parry and and six in front of Fichardt and Oliver Bekker.
The Brazilian, however, couldn't hold his game together in the windy conditions at the East London Golf Club and slid down the leaderboard to finish in a tie for 12th on nine-under-par 279 after rounds of 73 and 76.
Made his move
Fichardt, meanwhile, made his move with a superb seven-under-par 65 in the third round, which was bettered only by Spain's Jorge Campillo, with a 63 and Italian Emiliano Grillo, who went around in 64 shots.
While Fichardt dropped those three shots late in his round to close with a 71, the difficult conditions meant only 12 players bettered his effort over the last 18 holes.
After rounds of 69, 67, 65 and 71, he finished on 16-under-par 272. Bourdy and Van Zyl ended on 274 and Garth Mulroy on 275.
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