Fichardt Takes Two-Stroke Lead in Zimbabwe


Darren Fichardt finally managed to break free from a cluttered Cabs/Old Mutual Zimbabwe Open leaderboard, taking a two-stroke lead into Sunday's final round at the Chapman Golf Club on Saturday.
Fichardt's round of 69 lifted him to 10-under-par 206 for the tournament, the largest lead in three days of extremely competitive golf.
But he is hardly in the clear, with Andre van Staden and Richard Sterne both at 8-under-par 208, and then the quartet of Nicholas Lawrence, Ian Hutchings, Mark Murless and Jean Hugo at 209.
And Fichardt, who made his professional debut in this event in 1994, is the first to admit that the tournament is still wide open.
'Nobody seems to be running away with this,' he said. 'I'm leading at the moment, but I feel like I had a really frustrating day out there. I feel like I'm playing badly and am leaving a lot of shots out on the course.'
Fichardt seemed to be making his move on the front nine on Saturday when he surged to 11-under-par at the turn. But two quick bogeys at the 11th and 12th holes, the second as a result of a poor tee shot, slowed his progress.
'I felt like I was getting going and then those two bogeys stopped me in my tracks,' he said.
Van Staden also made a strong claim for his maiden victory on the Sunshine Tour. The Johannesburg professional birdied the first and second holes and then holed a 10-foot putt for eagle at the par-5 5th to set up his round. A birdie at the ninth saw him turn in 5-under and only one behind Fichardt going into the back nine.
But a warning for slow play unsettled Van Staden, who dropped shots at the 10th, 15th and 16th holes for an inward half of 38 and a round of 69.
'I felt rushed out there,' he said. 'It's a pity because I've been working with a sports psychologist, and he has really helped me to relax during my round and focus on each shot. But when we got the warning for slow play, I was rushing everything.'
Sterne, the leading amateur in this event last year, kept himself in contention with a 70 that started with a bogey, while Hugo - the joint overnight leader - simply could not get his round going and managed only a 72.
But it has been the nature of this tournament that the indifferent golf the leading professionals are complaining of is still good enough to keep them in the hunt for the title.
'It looks like everybody is leaving a few shots out on the course,' said Fichardt. 'But a nice 64 on Sunday could be just what is needed.'
The chances of a Zimbabwean retaining the trophy that Mark McNulty won last year evaporated on Saturday. Marc Cayeux, only one shot off the lead overnight, became the victim of a dismal 76 that saw him drop to 2-under-par overall.
Cayeux's troubles began early in the round, and a run of bogey, bogey, triple bogey from the third proved too much for him to come back from.
Bulawayo's Barry Painting is the leading Zimbabwean in the field at 4-under-par 212.
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