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Fichardt Caps Year With Victory in Zimbabwe

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Darren Fichardt capped a magnificent year with a three-stroke victory in a grueling final round of the Cabs/Old Mutual Zimbabwe Open at the Chapman Golf Club Sunday.
 
Fichardt closed with a 69 to claim his third title this year at 13-under-par 275, adding this win to his victories in the Sunshine Tour's Tour Championship and the European Tour's Sao Paulo Brazil Open.
 
But this was by far the Pretoria golfer's most demanding test in a professional career that started in this event in 1994.
 
'This is easily the hardest victory I've ever had. It was all mental. My swing wasn't quite there this whole week. I managed to work with it, but my putter and my short game got me through this week,' said Fichardt, who had to grit his teeth through a tough opening few holes on Sunday.
 
After starting the day two strokes ahead of the field, Fichardt surged three clear at 11-under-par with a 30-foot birdie putt at the par-3 fouth hole.
 
But he began to stumble slightly at the fifth, the first par-5 of the round. For the fourth day in succession, Fichardt's second landed in the right greenside bunker, from where he splashed out to about 15 feet and two-putted for par.
 
At the sixth, Fichardt's drive finished right and under the trees, from where he made bogey to drop to 10-under-par.
 
Both Richard Sterne and Andre van Staden, two shots off the lead going into the final round, suffered a bogey and double bogey, respectively, as they began to slip off the pace.
 
But Bradford Vaughan's eagle at the fifth saw him move into contention at 8-under-par along with Michael Green and Jean Hugo. However, a crucial birdie from the trees right of the seventh fairway put Fichardt back on track.
 
'I was in the trees with my drive and I saw the slightest gap. I thought it was make or break then, that I had to get something going.'
 
The result was a superb 7-iron to six feet and a birdie, followed by another birdie at nine to keep Fichardt two clear of the field at the turn. Fichardt's back nine featured only one bogey at the short 12th, which he erased at the very next hole as the rest of the field failed to make any more runs at his lead.
 
Fichardt then sealed the victory with a five-foot birdie putt at the last.
 
'This has been an awesome year for me,' he said. 'It's taught me a lot, like thinking in the present on the golf course and accepting my bad shots when they come.'
 
Vaughan and Mark Murless shared second place at 10-under-par 278 with respective rounds of 67 and 69, while Green, Hugo and Nicholas Lawrence shared third on 279. Sterne and Van Staden finished joint seventh at 7-under-par.
 
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