Fichardt among leaders in South Africa
Centurion, South Africa – Darren Fichardt fired an 8-under 64 on Saturday and jumped into a share of the lead after three rounds of the inaugural Tshwane Open.
Fichardt, the first-round leader, finished 54 holes at 16-under 200. He stands alongside Dawie Van Der Walt (67), Charl Coetzee (68) and Mark Tullo (67), who all played together in the final group.
Of the four leaders, only Fichardt has won on the European Tour before. Fichardt claimed his fourth tour win two weeks ago at the Africa Open.
Louis De Jager posted his second straight 7-under 65 on Saturday. He is alone in fifth at minus-15. American Peter Uihlein carded a 4-under 68 to finish three rounds at 14-under-par 202, where he is by himself in sixth place at Copperleaf Golf & Country Estate.
The second round was completed earlier Saturday after lightning forced players off the course late in the day Friday. The third round was completed after a 1-hour, 55-minute lightning delay on Saturday.
Fichardt started the third round three groups ahead of the leaders. He opened with a birdie at the first. After three pars, Fichardt birdied three of four holes from the fifth to jump to 12-under.
The South African picked up another birdie at the par-5 11th. He parred the next four holes, during which the weather delay halted action.
When they returned to the course, Fichardt ran off three consecutive birdies from the 16th to finish at 16-under.
"I was upset with yesterday's round and I fell back to four behind. I wanted to catch that up and get into the mix for tomorrow," said Fichardt. "I'm just hitting the right shots at the right time and making crucial putts. If I do hit a bad shot, I recover from it and that's what adds up to good scores, so I'm very happy with my game right now."
Coetzee and Tullo were in and out of the lead throughout the day. Coetzee led by one at the start of the day and carded eight pars to go with a single birdie on the front nine.
Tullo flew past his playing partners with three consecutive birdies from the sixth. He birdied the 10th to get to 15-under, but Coetzee also made birdie there to remain one back.
Coetzee birdied the par-4 12th to join Tullo atop the leaderboard. The weather delay struck as they played the 13th. When play resumed, Coetzee stumbled to a bogey on No. 13 to slip one back.
Coetzee took the lead with back-to-back birdies at 14 and 15. He faltered to another bogey at 16, which left him one behind Fichardt. Coetzee bounced right back with a birdie at the 17th to gain a share of the lead.
"This is a new experience for me and I'm loving it, so I'm just trying to enjoy it. Enjoying it is the most important thing because it keeps me nice and calm, nice and relaxed and I can just focus on what I need to do," Coetzee said. "I felt like I played really nicely on the back nine, although I felt like the bogeys were a little unnecessary."
Tullo, who parred seven in a row from the 11th, birdied the par-4 18th to grab a share of the top spot on the leaderboard.
Van Der Walt started his round with birdies at the first and fourth. He carded eight pars in a row from the fifth. After the weather stoppage, Van Der Walt birdied the 13th to move to 14-under.
The 30-year-old birdied two of the last three holes to become the fourth overnight leader.
NOTES: Fichardt, Coetzee and Van der Walt are all South Africans, and that gives them a chance to become the fifth South African winner in the six events in that country ... Fichardt has won once in each of the last two years after earning his first two crowns in 2001 and 2003.