Darren Fichardt produced a classy display in blustery conditions to win the 2015 Abu Dhabi Invitational at Yas Links on Sunday.
The 2003 Commercial Bank Qatar Masters winner was in top form as he rattled off nine birdies on his way to an eight under 64, which was good enough to win the individual professional section of the event by a stroke from Thongchai Jaidee, Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Ross McGowan.
“It’s been a fantastic day, great company. It’s an unbelievable event on a great golf course,” said the South African, a four-time winner on The European Tour, who won US$100,000m – US$50,000 of which will be distributed to charity through the Tour Players Foundation.
“When I initially got asked to play this event, I thought: ‘It’s just a Pro-Am’. But I must say, from the moment we arrived the people have been unbelievably hospitable and accommodating. They’ve put us up in a fantastic hotel, the Yas Viceroy, and we got brought to the course in a Bentley! It’s been really fantastic and the course is in wonderful condition.”
The 39 year old was delighted to show some good form having endured a frustrating time in Qatar last week. Starting on the tenth hole, he reached the turn at two under par before a scintillating performance saw him play the front nine in just 30 shots with six birdies and no dropped shots.
“This gives me a huge boost to the confidence,” said Fichardt who came close to making aces on both the eighth and the 17th, which would have won him a Bentley Continental GT Speed and a Sunseeker Manhattan 63 luxury yacht respectively.
“Yesterday in Qatar I shot level par in the final round and made one birdie and one bogey. It was a mess and left a bitter taste in my mouth. So coming here and shooting eight under to win this beautiful event, it’s definitely done a lot for my confidence.”
Meanwhile, World Number One Rory McIlroy drew the biggest crowds of the day playing alongside Dad Gerry, Stephen Gallacher, and tournament co-host Mohammed Farooq.
“It was an enjoyable day, and it was nice to play 18 holes,” said McIlroy, who finished in a share of 25th place with a two under 70. “I haven’t actually played 18 holes since Abu Dhabi, so it was nice to get back on the course.
“I’ve played this course before and it’s great. I think they’ve done a really good job in making a links course in the middle of the desert.
“It’s great for the amateurs, getting to play with us in events like this. There are a lot of guys we know already from the Pro-Am circuit, so it’s good to catch up with them. You always enjoy it more when you play with people you know, and you can have a laugh.
“You’re always trying to play well and shoot the best score you can, but you’re trying to have a bit of fun out there at the same time – especially playing out there with my dad, and Mohammed who’s become a pretty good friend over the past couple of years.”
McIlroy also came close to a hole in one on the 17th, knocking a six iron that came to a stop just two inches right of the hole.
“I was nearly there,” he smiled. “That would have been nice, to go away with a little yacht for my troubles!”
In the team section of the event, it was the pairing of Thongchai Jaidee and Argentinean football legend Gabriel Batistuta who came out on top after a wonderful combined performance that saw them shoot 11 under 61 to win by one from Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Dino Varkey.
The Abu Dhabi Invitational is supported by Host Partner, Abu Dhabi Sports Council; Founders, Al Naboodah and Farooq Investments; Premium Partners Bentley, Ilyas& Mustafa Galadari Group, GEMS Education, International Petroleum Investment Company; Official Partners Luke Sport, Yas Links, Invest Africa, Hublot, Yas Viceroy; Support Partners San Pellegrino, Roberto Coin, Links Insurance Brokers, Golf Gamebook and Titleist; Media Partners Sport 360, Worldwide Golf, Golfing World and Event Partners IMG and The European Tour.