Fichardt Takes Lead at Tour Championship
Fichardt's round gave him a 54-hole total of 11-under-par 202, a shot clear of first round leader Grant Mulle. Muller matched his 67 and finished one ahead of the winner of the Vodacom Players Championship, Trevor Immelman, who made three birdies in his last six holes en route to a 69.
On a widely spread leader board, Englishman Mark Hilton was three off the pace after a 68 and Steve van Vuuren, who hails from nearby Nelspruit, was four behind Fichardt after his third straight round under 70, a 69.
Fichardt, who said he had been making some swing changes with a coach in Spain, got off to a slow start, his putter coming to his rescue on three of the first four holes after he'd missed the green. 'My putter got me through the first few holes,' he said.
On the fifth and sixth, he added to his birdie four at the second, jumping out to 10-under-par and a three-shot lead. Overnight leader Keith Horne faded on Saturday with a 76, and Richard Kaplan, one off the halfway pace, both started with bogeys, Horne adding a second at the par-4 3rd.
Muller had picked up a shot at the third and another birdie at the ninth, where he overcame one of a number of tricky pin positions, got him to within two shots, but Fichardt immediately extended his advantage to three again at the 10th, despite his drive finishing in a fairway bunker.
The 25-year-old from Pretoria unlike many of his fellow pros, drained a birdie from 5m after going in with a 7-iron.
His first major problem of the round came shortly afterwards, when his tee shot on the par-5 13th 'caught a rock or something and went straight left into the long grass'. Forced to declare it unplayable and take a penalty drop, Fichardt hit a 5-wood just short of the green, but for once couldn't get up and down for par.
Typically of his fighting round, though, the man who topped last year's order of merit after finishing second in the SA Open, struck back with a birdie, hitting a wedge close at the 14th.
The course bit back at the long par-4 15th. His drive finished in a bunker running alongside a lake which guards the green. 'I had 200m to the flag, but the pin was 20m on, so it was 180m to the front. I took a 3-iron, but I hit it a little fat and it went in the water.'
That resulted in a double-bogey six, but Fichardt, who lost his sister in a tragic accident just over a month ago, showed incredible character to bounce back again at the 16th, holing a putt of some 50 feet for birdie. 'That was huge,' was all he could say about the viciously swinging putt.
At the par-5 18th, a 6-iron approach gave him a putt for eagle, but he 'left it in the mouth' and settled for a birdie to lead on his own.
Muller should have been alongside on Fichardt on 202, but for his mistake in giving himself a four on the sixth hole, when he had taken a three, in Friday's second round. Muller, who said he had gone through his card three times without picking up the error, was asked how important that shot might be. 'I'll tell you after tomorrow's round. Please God, it doesn't cost me,' he replied, adding: 'The only way I can ify that shot is to win the tournament. If I finish second or third by a shot, I'll know how much it cost me.'
Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change
Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.
David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.
“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.
Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.
“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”
Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.
The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.
Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.
Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:
1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.
2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.
While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”
PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes
The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:
The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.
We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.
Sharma closes on Monday, wins Joburg Open
JOHANNESBURG – Shubhankar Sharma won his first European Tour title by a shooting 3-under 69 Monday in the final round of the weather-delayed Joburg Open.
The 21-year-old Indian resumed his round on the eighth green after play was halted early Sunday afternoon because of storms. He parred that hole, birdied No. 9 and made par on every hole on the back nine.
Sharma finished at 23-under 264, three strokes ahead of the pack, and qualified for next year's British Open, too.
''I actually wasn't going to come here about a week ago ... so I'm really happy that I came,'' said Sharma, who shot 61 in the second round. ''I don't think I'm ever going forget my first time in South Africa.''
Erik van Rooyen (66) was second, three strokes ahead of Shaun Norris (65) and Tapio Pulkkanen (68).
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates:
No. 5: Dec. 12
No. 4: Dec. 13
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18