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Golf | SA

Darren Fichardt © Gallo Images

Darren targeting top 50...and more!

Some may find it tough to look past the likes of Jose Maria Olazabal and Darren Clarke when identifying marquee players at this week’s inaugural Tshwane Open at the Els Club Copperleaf. But it would be foolhardy to look past Africa Open champion Darren Fichardt. The win in East London was his fourth on the European Tour, and his second in the space of eight months.

Winning is a habit, and knowing how to win is an art. Both seem to be a part of his artillery, and, in conjunction with the consistent form he has shown in the last year, he arrives at Copperleaf this week as a major contender for the R2.8 million winner’s cheque.

“It’s definitely nice to come here as the Africa Open champion,” Fichardt smiled. “You come here as the previous champion on the European Tour and that gives you a lot of confidence, especially because you know that you can win these tournaments.”

He continued: “The game is feeling good and most importantly the confidence is high. Last week I played nicely and gave myself a chance on the weekend, which is all you want.”

Of course, Fichardt hasn’t had it all his own way in recent years. Two finishes in the top three during the 2006 season earned him a 69th-place finish in the then European Tour Order of Merit, but he lost his full playing rights a year later. After years of toil, he eventually regained his card through the final stage of Qualifying School in 2011.

The win at the Saint-Omer Open in France last year helped him to an 84th-place finish in the Race to Dubai standings for 2012, but it was last week’s triumph that catapulted the 37-year old into the top 100 in the World Rankings. With so much emphasis placed on these rankings, Fichardt is understandably aiming high in this regard.

“You want to win every week, but it doesn’t always work out that way. I know I can win more than once – I’ve won four times now – so I’m definitely pushing.

“But the world ranking is my target, because I want to get into the top 50 in the world. That opens up huge doors, because you get into big events that incorporate the top 60. It’s tough to get into those events if you’re outside the top 60, and it’s tough to get into the top 60 if you’re excluded from those events! So my main goal is to get up there and maybe make the President’s Cup, so you set your goals high!” he concluded.

A win this week would go a long way to earning a place in Nick Price’s team of Internationals later this year. And, although he conceded that he isn’t too familiar with the course, Fichardt starts the event off with great confidence, and is naturally enjoying his golf again as a result.

“I’ve played a lot of social games here, but not a lot off the back tees. It’s very long and it’s going to be tough this week,” Fichardt admitted.

“That said, this game is a lot more enjoyable when you’re playing well and contending. It’s better than when you’re missing cuts or fighting hooks. I’m having fun out there and I’m really looking forward to the week,” he added.


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