CENTURION, South Africa -- Darren Fichardt put Friday's disappointment behind him to climb back to the top of the leaderboard at the Tshwane Open on Saturday.
The South African is part of a four-way tie for first after consecutive birdies on the 16th, 17th and 18th holes helped him to a round of 64 in the inaugural playing of the event, which is co-sanctioned by the European Tour and southern Africa’s Sunshine Tour.
That is one shot better than the 65 that gave him the first-round lead on Thursday before a 71 on Friday dented his chances.
"I was upset with yesterday's round and I fell back to four behind," Fichardt said. "I wanted to catch that up and get into the mix for tomorrow.
"I'm just hitting the right shots at the right time and making crucial putts," he added. "If I do hit a bad shot I recover from it and that's what adds up to good scores, so I'm very happy with my game right now."
Fichardt came through late on a long day's play at the Ernie Els-designed course at Copperleaf Golf and Country Estate. The first players had teed off at 6:45 a.m. local time after storms curtailed the second round and another two-hour hold up in the afternoon Saturday meant it was past 6:00 p.m. when the action stopped.
Charl Coetzee, Dawie van der Walt and Mark Tullo all joined Fichardt on 16 under by the finish, with midway leader Coetzee shrugging off two bogeys by making six birdies and signing for a 68, while Van der Walt and Tullo had blemish-free rounds of 67.
Indeed, Van der Walt and Tullo are yet to drop a shot between them over the opening 54 holes.
The Chilean Tullo is the only player in the top five not to come from South Africa, with the locals hoping to make it five wins in the six events co-sanctioned by the European Tour and the Sunshine Tour.
Louis De Jager is one shot off the lead in fifth, having made eight birdies after an opening bogey to go round in 65.
Of the leading pack, Fichardt is the only one with a prior European Tour title to his name.
Former U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein made a 68 to sit in sixth place, two shots off the pace, while David Howell is one further shot back in seventh.
Jose Maria Olazabal, who needed a 66 Friday to avoid the cut after a miserable opening 76, was struggling again and he had two double bogeys and a bogey in a round of 74 that left him down in a tie for 73rd place.
Darren Clarke, who also narrowly avoided the cut, was faring only slightly better, with bogeys on the 14th and 16th keeping him down in a share of 70th place.