Fichardt and Van Zyl share lead
Day three of a golf tournament is often termed as “Moving Day,” and on Saturday in the Africa Open Golf Challenge at East London Golf Club it was the South African duo of Darren Fichardt (65) and Jaco van Zyl (68) who moved into a share of a two-stroke lead at 15-under par for the tournament.
Overnight leader Adilson da Silva was unable to kick on from his scintillating opening rounds of 62 and 68; his round of 73 on the day leaving him in sole possession of third place.
Frenchman Gregory Bourdy (67) lies fourth on 12-under, while Argentine Emiliano Grillo scorched around the course in an eight-under round of 64 to find himself a further stroke adrift in fifth.
Da Silva had started the day with a three-stroke advantage over Van Zyl, but it was Fichardt who made the early move with birdies at the first and fourth holes sandwiched by an eagle at the par-five third. Further birdies at the seventh and eighth holes saw him storm into a share of the lead, but it was a run of successive birdies from the 13th to the 15th holes, which played into the freshening easterly wind, that put daylight between him and the chasing pack.
A bogey at the par-three 17th opened the door to his compatriot Van Zyl, but Fichardt was nevertheless pleased with his efforts on the day.
“The putter was nice and hot,” Fichardt said. “That putt on three was an absolute beauty - about 20-foot for eagle. And, on 13, I sunk a nice 40-footer for birdie. The game is definitely all there now.”
“I’m just scoring. I’ve got my swing up to scratch and I’m capitalizing,” he added.
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Van Zyl still seeks his maiden victory on the European Tour, but Fichardt, who is a good friend of the 33-year-old, had some ominous words of warning for his playing partner tomorrow.
“It should be a great round, because Jaco and I are great friends. We played just about every practice round together last season in Europe, so we know each other well. He will be gunning for his first European Tour win, but he’ll have to get through me first! But I’m looking forward to the match,” said Fichardt with a smile.
The smooth-swinging Van Zyl’s rise to the summit of the leaderboard was more gradual, as he forced his way into the mix with three birdies on the front nine. Two further birdies offset his only bogey of the day at the 14th, and a tidy up and down from the sand on the closing hole to save par left him in a good mood going into the final round.
“It is nice to be tied for the lead,” Van Zyl said. “I played nicely on the first nine holes, although saying that we didn’t have much wind. It was a little bit harder on the back nine, because once you start turning that corner it’s really hard into the breeze.
“But I’m very happy with the day. I’ve had a couple of stretches this week where I’ve birdied three or four in a row and it’s good to have the swing back. I made a few putts coming in and caught up to Darren, so it should be a great match on Sunday.”
With 10 wins on the Sunshine Tour, an elusive win on the European Tour would be the missing string on Van Zyl’s bow. But the Lonehill resident insists it is not something that plays on his mind, and that the approach to a potentially massive day in his career will be like any other final round.
“The first win isn’t a monkey on my back yet. It will be nice to get it over and done with tomorrow, but if not then I’m sure I’ll have a couple more chances in future,” Van Zyl said.
He went on: “It’s just the same old routine for me in the morning. Nothing will change – tomorrow is Sunday, like any other, and whether you’re three-under or 15-under doesn’t change it.”