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FICHARDT WINS JOBURG OPEN WITH LAST HOLE BIRDIE

Darren Fichardt called his caddie over to help him read the putt that would win him the Joburg Open on Sunday, but in the end, he was left to his own devices as he sank the two-footer which gave him a one-shot victory at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club. Source – Sunshine Tour

After bogeying the 17th on the East course, he needed the birdie on 18 to edge one clear of Stuart Manley of Wales and England’s Paul Waring – and all three of those players punched their tickets to July’s Open Championship at Royal Birkdale in the latest of The Open Championship Qualifying Series which take place around the world.

“I called him over, but I noticed he wasn’t too keen to come and help me,” laughed Fichardt. “I have a new putter and a new putting grip, and I wasn’t sure what a bad putt would do under those circumstances. I was just glad that I had chipped it close enough. Actually, I just needed him there so I could blow off a little of the pressure.”

Fichardt who has been battling to rediscover the kind of form that has made him a stalwart on the Sunshine Tour and on the European Tour, which co-sanctioned this tournament, what delighted as the dust settle on his win “Geez man, it’s good to win again,” he said. “The form I have been having the last couple of months has been horrendous but I decided at the beginning of the year that I was going to play as many tournaments as I can and just get my game right. And it worked out!”

In a tournament that was beset by heavy rains throughout, which caused it to be shortened to 54 holes, Fichardt responded by producing some almost flawless golf. He made just two bogeys in his 54 holes, and in the end, that allowed him to separate himself from the field.

But, at 41, he also had to deal with the fact that many of his younger competitors were able to get the ball much further off the tees than he could. “I think in the past, I’ve tried to hit the ball harder when I play this tournament,” he said, “and this time, because I’ve been hitting the ball so well over the last few months, I was concentrating on my short game and my putting.”

It was two clutch chips that probably sealed the deal for him. He short-sided himself on 14, and hit a delightful chip close to save par, and then on 18, he saw his chip from the mouth of the green slide by the hole to settle two feet from the pin.

“I’ve got a new swing thought that I use on my chipping, and it certainly came in useful today,” he said. “I was surprisingly calm over the one on 18, especially after that bogey on 17, but it certainly proved to me again that the short game and putting is where you score.”

That scoring gave him his 15th Sunshine Tour title and his fifth European Tour win. And the comfort of planning an easier international travel schedule that victory and exemption on the European Tour brings.

One of his destinations will be Royal Birkdale foe The Open. “I like that course a lot,” he said. “I once rented a house near there and practiced on the course a few times. I last played The Open when Louis Oosthuizen won in 2010, so I’m looking forward to that.”

For now though, he’s just going to let winning again sink in.

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