Fichardt Fires 61 in Lightening-Plagued Brazil


South Africa's Darren Fichardt fired a 10-under 61 on Friday to take a seven-shot lead as lightning once again halted play at the Sao Paulo Brazil Open. Over than half the field will return to the course Saturday morning to complete round two.
Fichardt's 61 would have broken the course record but Friday's play was contested under preferred lies. Matthew Blackey still holds the record with his 8-under 63 in last year's event. Fichardt is 14-under 128 through 36 holes at the Sao Paulo Golf Club.
Diego Borrego, Richard S. Johnson, Johan Skold and Blackey are tied for second at 7-under. Tom Gillis completed his second round and sits at 6-under with Neil Cheetham and first-round leader Per Nyman. Cheetham made it through 15 holes Friday while Nyman had yet to tee off.
Fichardt began his round with a birdie at No. 10 and then ran off three more on his front side for a 32. With the lead, Fichardt pulled away with four birdies on his second nine, and then a 20-foot eagle at the ninth gave him his huge advantage.
'The key was just playing percentage golf today,' said the 25-year-old, who won the inaugural Tour Championship on the South African Tour last month. 'Yesterday, I hit a lot of drivers which got me into trouble. But today I just kept it on the fairway and left myself a full shot in.
'I'm striking the ball well. The swing is there. A win will start the year off nicely.'
Johnson posted six birdies, all coming from inside of four feet, for a 67 on Friday.
'My sand wedge and lob wedges were amazing today,' said Johnson, who is winless on the European Tour. 'I hit far more fairways today and gave myself an opportunity.'
Blackey mixed four birdies and a bogey in his round of 68 but knows he has a lot of work ahead of him if he wants to catch Fichardt.
'Sixty-one is a great score and everyone is playing catch up,' he said. 'I've made a good start this week and have now got to try and peg Darren back.'
Borrego carded six birdies on Friday including a chip-in from 10 yards at the 14th for his round of 67. Skold posted a 6-under 65 that was aided by four birdies as he made the turn.
Kenneth Ferrie, Robin Byrd, Mark Roe and Thomas Gogele are in the clubhouse at 5-under 137, with Thomas Levet at minus five through three holes and Brett Rumford still to tee off in Round Two.
Click here for full-field scores from the Sao Paulo Brazilian Open