EAST LONDON, South Africa -- South Africans Darren Fichardt and Jaco Van Zyl are in a strong position to extend the host nation’s superb record in the Africa Open after moving into a share of the 54-hole lead on Saturday.
On a day of low scoring at East London Golf Club, Fichardt and Van Zyl took advantage of a slip-up by overnight leader Adilson da Silva to move to the head of affairs on 15 under par.
The previous three editions of the Africa Open have been won by Charl Schwartzel (2010) and his fellow major champion Louis Oosthuizen (2011 and 2012), and South Africa’s dominance of the event seems set to continue after Fichardt and Van Zyl opened up a two-shot lead over the field.
Fichardt, who captured his third European Tour title in St. Omer last year, notched seven birdies and an eagle-3 at the third hole en route to signing for a round of 65 that moved him into his share of the lead.
“It should be a great day, because Jaco and I are great friends,” said Fichardt, looking ahead to Sunday. “We played just about every practice round together last season in Europe, so we know each other well. I’m really looking forward to it.
“The putter was nice and hot today,” he added.” That putt on three was an absolute beauty – about 20-feet for eagle. And on 13, I sunk a nice 40-footer for birdie, so the game is definitely all there now.”
Van Zyl is yet to make his European Tour breakthrough, but after a series of near-misses is confident of notching his first victory.
The 10-time champion on southern Africa’s Sunshine Tour dropped just one shot, at the 14th hole, in his six-birdie round of 68.
“I’m very happy with the day,” he said. “I’ve had a couple of stretches this week where I’ve birdied three or four in a row, and it’s good to have the swing back. I made a few putts coming in to catch Darren up, and it should be a great match up on Sunday.”
Da Silva lost his place at the top of the leaderboard after a 1-over round of 73 saw him slip back to 13 under, one shot ahead of France’s Gregory Bourdy, who shot a round of 67. After a round of 64, Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo occupies fifth place on 11 under par.