Fichardt Overcomes Setback for Victory

By Golf Channel NewsroomFebruary 25, 2001, 5:00 pm
Darren Fichardt produced one of the gutsiest fightbacks the Sunshine Tour has ever seen on Sunday to win the inaugural Tour Championship by four shots from Hennie Otto as he closed with a 3-under-par 68 for a 14-under-par total of 270 at Leopard Creek.
Bradford Vaughan, the winner in Swaziland a week earlier, produced a closing 67 to win the race for second place on the order of merit with Trevor Immelman and Roger Wessels. Vaughan was on an 8-under-par total of 276, one behind Grant Muller, who made a birdie four at the last to make third spot his own, although he had a chance of an eagle that would have left him joint second with Otto, who finished with a 67.
There are 68s and there are 68s, and Fichardt's on Sunday - his fourth sub-70 round of the tournament - was one of the most eventful yet played, containing seven birdies, an eagle, four bogeys and a two-shot penalty.
It clinched his first summer tour victory - he had previously won the Bearing Man Highveld Classic in Witbank - and crowned a difficult campaign for Fichardt, who lost his sister, Debbie, in a car accident just over a month ago. He dedicated the victory to his sister and to her husband, Mark Schultz, and their children, Dale and Nicole. 'My sister was always a great supporter of mine,' he said.
The 25-year-old from Pretoria stormed clear of the field early on Sunday, with two birdies and an eagle in his first five holes, to extend his one-shot overnight lead to four, but an incident on the par-4 6th, where he repaired a pitch mark off the green, contravening rule 13.2, which says a player may not improve his 'line of play,' cost him a two-shot penalty.
The infringement was spotted by the man behind the spectacular Leopard Creek development, Johann Rupert, who pointed it out to Fichardt before it was discussed with tournament director Theo Manyama, who confirmed the penalty.
'It's a ruling that I'm not familiar with, but that obviously is the rule, so it shows that I must learn my rules a bit better,' admitted Fichardt. 'A two-shot penalty always knocks you and I had to dig deep after that,' he said, giving credit to his family for helping pull him through.
Fichardt parred the seventh, but then bogeyed three holes in a row around the turn, before arresting the slump in emphatic style with birdies at Nos. 11, 12, 13 and 14 to again pull four clear, this time of Otto, who had leapfrogged Muller on the leaderboard.
'It definitely feels like this is the real breakthrough,' said Fichardt, who narrowly missed out on forcing a play-off with Swede Mathias Gronberg at last year's SA Open.
Now he's set to take the next step up the ladder in Europe, where there are 'four tournaments in a row I think I can get starts in'.
Mark McNulty, who topped the order of merit with R1,603,481, said: 'I'm delighted to have achieved this. This was one of the goals I set myself at the beginning of the season. To win three out of the six tournaments I played on the tour is fantastic.
'My victory in the SA Open is undoubtedly the most special of those and this is a great way to start the year.'
Vaughan's round on Sunday took him to R686,414 and a distant second place, some R54,000 ahead of Wessels, who will join him and McNulty at the American Express World Golf Championship event in the United States later this year, although only McNulty and Vaughan qualify for the British Open.
Otto's second on Sunday have him fourth place on R620,210, just R445 ahead of Immelman.
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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 25, 2018, 4:45 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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Hahn jabs USGA over possible ball rollback

By Will GrayFebruary 25, 2018, 4:43 pm

As debate continues to heat up over possible sweeping changes to the golf ball amid distance concerns, PGA Tour pro James Hahn chimed in to question the merits of a potential rollback.

The ball and distance debate gained traction earlier this week when Jack Nicklaus offered that the ball should be rolled back to the approximate distances achieved in 1995, and he put blame for the current situation squarely at the feet of Titleist. That drew a response from former Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who put the onus back on the governing bodies.

It's an issue that will likely be discussed for months to come, but Hahn took to Twitter to throw a jab toward the USGA and play devil's advocate on some key arguments related to a possible rollback:

Hahn, who has two career PGA Tour wins and lost in a playoff last month at the Sony Open, ranks 55th on Tour this season in driving distance with an average of 301.2 yards off the tee.

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Na fires back over slow play criticism from cricketer

By Will GrayFebruary 25, 2018, 4:00 pm

Kevin Na fired back over recent criticism he received about his purported slow play at last week's Genesis Open.

Kevin Pietersen is a retired English cricketer with more than 3.6 million followers on Twitter. He tweeted a video of Na, known as one of the slower players on the PGA Tour, taking more than a minute to line up and hit what he described as a "Tap In" during the final round at Riviera:

He then added another video of himself on a green in Dubai, where he again called out Na and showed how long he believed it should take for a player to brush in a short putt:

Na has faced his fair share of slow play criticism, but this time he decided to defend himself. Na isn't on Twitter, but he took to Instagram to tell Pietersen to "stick to your own sport," pointing out both the length of the putt in question and the stakes that were involved during the final round, when Na went on to tie for second behind Bubba Watson:

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Pepperell wins his first European Tour title in Qatar

By Associated PressFebruary 25, 2018, 3:31 pm

DOHA, Qatar - Eddie Pepperell survived a tense finish to win the Qatar Masters at the Doha Golf Club on Sunday for his maiden European Tour title.

The 27-year-old Englishman held off a spirited challenge from compatriot Oliver Fisher, who needed a third successive birdie on the 18th hole to force a playoff, but had his putt from six feet slip past the hole for a par.

Pepperell shot a 2-under-par 70 for a four-day tally of 18 under 270, while Fisher, who started the day tied for the lead, could only manage a 71.

Sweden's Marcus Kinhult (68) finished third at 16-under.

The No. 154-ranked Pepperell made things difficult for himself with a bogey on the 15th hole, but hit a superb wedge to three feet on the next to get back to 18 under again.

Fisher, who appeared to have fallen out of contention with three bogeys starting on the third hole, stormed back with birdies on the 14th, 16th and 17th holes.

On the last, Pepperell laid up with his second into the thick rough, made wet and unwieldy by rain in the Qatar capital, but found the green in three and two-putted for the win when Fisher missed his birdie putt.

Full-field scores from the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters

''I did the things I needed to do, I didn't play fantastic but I won ugly and for the first win to be ugly is good. Hopefully, I'll have some prettier ones in the future,'' said Pepperell.

''I knew I was playing well, especially tee to green, so I expected a lot of myself this week and I guess to pull it off is amazing. When Oli birdied the 17th, that was when it really caught up with me that I was only one ahead. I was in my own zone, I knew I had a couple of shots of lead but Oli did great. It was a tough front nine for him and I had to stay right in my own way and out of the two guys' way because they were struggling a bit and it's sometimes easy to get dragged into that.''

Fisher was disappointed, but saw the silver lining in the way he fought back.

''It went all the way to the last hole which, after my front nine, was what I was hoping for on the back nine,'' said Fisher, who won the 2011 Czech Open, but recorded his first top-three finish since the 2014 Africa Open.

''I hit a lot of good shots coming down the back nine and gave myself a lot of good chances, but there were just too many bogeys today, four in total, so you're never going to win a tournament making that many mistakes on a Sunday. But at least I pressed him all the way.''

Italian Renato Paratore (66) had the low round of the day and finished tied for fourth place at 15 under par, where he was joined by the Spanish pair of Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Pablo Larrazabal along with Gregory Havret of France.