Former Masters champion Ian Woosnam is alone in second place at 4-under-par 67 while left-hander Richard Green of Australia has sole possession of third at minus-3.
Heavy wind greeted the players in the morning tee times but conditions improved as Thursday's opening round continued.
Fichardt, who played in the second wave, had an up-and-down start to his round as the South African began play on the back nine. He jumped out of the gate with two birdies but dropped three strokes to par over his next four holes. Fichardt birdied the 174-yard, par-3 16th to make the turn at even-par 35.
Fichardt got going after the turn with four birdies in a row from the second. He drove into a hazard at the seventh and took a penalty drop. Fichardt had a horrible lie and muscled his third to 40 feet, where he sank the putt for the improbable par save.
He birdied the ninth, which was extended to 596 yards this year, to jump past Woosnam into first place.
Fichardt returned on Thursday after a two-week vacation. He did not pick up any clubs and the break from competitive golf seemed to do the two-time European Tour winner good.
'I am feeling very refreshed after the holiday,' said Fichardt. 'I haven't had a holiday like that for quite a while. Today I started off not swinging too well, obviously after not touching a club in so long. But I managed to work the ball round the course and made some good putts. The swing came together on the second nine which was very good as there are quite a few tricky holes. Everything came together.'
Woosnam, who won the Masters in 1991, also started on the second nine and made the turn at plus-1 thanks to a pair of bogeys and a single birdie. Once he reached his back nine, Woosnam rattled off five birdies and was atop the leaderboard until Fichardt's afternoon surge.
'All I can say is that I kept the ball reasonably in play,' said Woosnam. 'That is the most important thing, to keep the ball on the fairway and then after that, try and get it on the green and hole a few putts. That's what I did.'
Woosnam changed a few things this week. He put a 1-iron in his bag and went back to the short putter, all in an effort to prepare for British Open qualifying next week.
'I used my 1-iron a lot,' said Woosnam, whose last win was the 2001 World Match Play. 'I brought my 1-iron with me because of pre-qualifying at Sunningdale next week. As it has turned out it has been useful around here. I usually only use it during the Open.'
Frenchman Jean-Francois Remesy and Nicolas Colsaerts are tied for fourth at minus-2, followed by Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter, Cesar Monasterio and Mark Roe, who share sixth at 1-under-par 70.
Three-time winner this season, Miguel Angel Jimenez, is tied for 26th after an opening-round, 2-over-par 73. Colin Montgomerie and two-time Masters winner Jose Maria Olazabal are a shot further back at plus-3.
Philip Golding struggled badly in the first round of his title defense. He carded a 12-over-par 83 and is tied for 145th place.