Darren Fichardt (Getty Images)
South Africa’s Darren Fichardt secured the first round lead as he goes in search of a second European Tour win in as many weeks at the inaugural Tshwane Open.
The 37 year old shot a seven under par 65 at the Copperleaf Golf & Country Estate as he looks to add to his Africa Open victory a fortnight ago.
Sweden’s Bjorn Åkesson briefly joined him on seven under, but a bogey at the 17th saw him finish the day in second place after a 66.
“I got off to a great start with two birdies through the first three,” said the Qualifying School graduate.
“Back nine I kept playing really good and made a lot of putts. That’s what you need to do to shoot low scores.”
This is the sixth and final event co-sanctioned between The European Tour and Sunshine Tour on The 2013 Race to Dubai, and so far only Scott Jamieson has managed to break the South African stranglehold when he lifted the Nelson Mandela Championship presented by ISPS Handa.
Fichardt started on the back nine and birdied the tenth and 13th before a hat-trick of gains from the 15th, where he reached the green in two and two-putted.
A tap-in birdie at the next followed after a fantastic sand wedge approach, and he made a two at the short 17th after leavinfg a six foot birdie chance with his nine iron tee shot.
After turning in 31, he birdied the first, fourth and sixth - the second of which became the longest hole in European Tour history at 685 yards.
A solitary bogey at the seventh checked his progress slightly, but Fichardt was pleased with his display over the Ernie Els-designed layout.
“The swing is good and I’m putting well,” he said.
“This golf course is awesome - it’s very fair. The greens are very soft, so you're able to attack the flags. I'm happy with seven under to start off with.
“Right now it's been eight weeks in a row and I don't even know what's going on! I'm just going with the flow and hitting one shot at a time. I'm looking forward to a break.
“I'll take it one day at a time and do my best this week.”
Former Ryder Cup star David Howell, England’s Gary Lockerbie, India’s Jeev Milkha Singh, Chilean Mark Tullo and South african Jean Hugo were all two off the pace in a share of third.
“I love playing in South Africa,” said Scottish Open winner Singh. “I've always had good results and it always gives me positive vibes and good memories when I come back.
“This year I played the Volvo Champs in Durban and it was my first time back in South Africa after eight years. Every time I wanted to come back there was an event in Asia or Europe and I was missing coming back.
“Things have worked out nicely that I'm back here and I love the course. I'm happy with the way I hit the ball and I putted well. When it's windy and you miss a few greens you need to make some up and downs and that's what I did. I holed a lot of putts today and I'm happy with the way the round turned out.”