EAST LONDON, South Africa (AFP) –
Darren Fichardt survived three bogeys over the closing holes to win the Africa Open by two shots from compatriot Jaco van Zyl and Gregory Bourdy of France on Sunday.
The 37-year-old from Pretoria closed with a one-under-par 71 — including four birdies and three bogeys — for a four-round total of 272 over the East London Golf Club course.
It was the fourth European Tour triumph for Fichardt after the Sao Paulo Open in 2001, the Qatar Masters two years later and the Saint-Omer Open in France last season.
His latest triumph came despite a back-nine slump that he survived because of a four-stroke advantage over his closest rivals over a short course, whose biggest defences were strong winds and thick brush bordering the fairways.
“I started losing focus because I was four shots ahead and began taking things for granted. I was putting unbelievably and then missed a short one at 14 and thought ‘what is going on here?’,” admitted Fichardt.
Van Zyl, seeking a maiden European Tour victory and level with Fichardt going into the final round, finished with a one-over 73 while Bourdy carded a two-under 70 and both ended on 274 for four rounds over the 6,066-metre layout.
South African Garth Mulroy closed with a 67 to finish fourth on 275 and compatriots Desvonde Botes (70) and Tjaart van der Walt (71) were on 277 with Andy Sullivan (68) of England and Mark Tullo (71) of Chile.
Success for Fichardt meant the South African dominantion of the Africa Open continued, with a sixth consecutive champion from the host country.
Major winners Louis Oosthuizen (twice), Charl Schwartzel and Retief Goosen and Shaun Norris won the previous editions, with the last three part of the European circuit.
Fichardt picked up three birdies on the outward nine and another coming back before dropping shots at the 14th, 16th and 17th, but Van Zyl and Bourdy were unable to take advantage.
After making a perfect start with birdies on the first and second, Van Zyl had six pars, dropped a shot at the ninth and had two more bogeys on the inward journey for a disappointing climax having started with a first-round 66.
Bourdy, a three-time European Tour champion, eagled the third, but a bogey meant he turned only one-under for the day and an erratic second nine produced three birdies and two bogeys.