European Tour

Fichardt on an upward curve in Antalya

Darren Fichardt (Getty Images)
Darren Fichardt (Getty Images)

Belek - Finding balance has proven a winning formula for Darren Fichardt, who continued an upwards trajectory in the $7-million Turkish Open in Antalya on Friday.

A lighter schedule, more time with the family and building his game towards the business end of the season has paid off handsomely for the five-time European Tour winner over the last two years, and yet again proving beneficial at the Carya Golf Club.

"There's still life in this old dog," joked the 43-year-old Pretoria golfer.

"Seriously though, I'm really happy where I'm at in the tournament. It can always be better, but I'm not too far out of position. If I keep moving in the right direction and give myself a chance come Sunday, anything can happen."

Successive rounds of 68 will see Fichardt head into moving day on six under 138, just half-a-dozen shots behind Englishman Justin Rose, who took pole position on 12-under with consecutive rounds of 65. The defending champion leads by two from countrymen Danny Willett and Tom Lewis, and 2016 winner Thorbjørn Olesen from Denmark.

"I'm six behind, but at this golf course, if you can get it going, you can go really low," said the South African. "You just have to stay patient."

Having collected 21 trophies in a career spanning 24 years - including his 2017 Joburg Open triumph - Fichardt knows how to put a lid on frustration.

"I had some good chances coming in, but the putts didn't drop," he said. "You accept it and you move on. I played a little too aggressively in the first round and had three bogeys. So I just dialled it back a little. Other than the three-wack at 10, it was a pretty solid round."

Fichardt turned two under after birdies at four and seven, and rallied with a brace of birdies at 11 and 12 after giving a shot back to the field at 10.

"I hit 3-wood off tee and a knock-down 8-iron to give," he said. "Drove it in the bunker at 12, chipped out, hit it really close and tapped in for birdie. Like I said, had some chances on the back nine and if those putts start dropping tomorrow, I'll be in good shape on Sunday."

Knowing his spot in the field for the seventh Rolex Series event at Sun City next week is confirmed, has added to Fichardt sense of well-being.

"The last two years I was on the reserve list for the Nedbank Golf Challenge, but I nailed it this year," said Fichardt, who tied for sixth last year. "The first year I had to sit and watch the guys tee off. Last year I got the call on the morning of the first round and had to rush to Sun City. Won't have those worries this year. It's still the one I'd really love to win. It's the one tournament every South African wants to win. Leaving Turkey on a high note and taking some positive confidence to Sun City will go a long way in setting me up for a good start next week."

Fichardt shares 17th spot with compatriot Thomas Aiken, who fired a flawless 65.

"I didn’t even know if I would tee it up yesterday after I picked up a stomach bug on Tuesday, so I’m really over the moon," said Aiken. "I got some injections from the doctor on site, but still don't know how I got around yesterday.

"It was a much better performance today. I hit 18 greens in regulation and I struck the ball really well. It seriously could have been a 59 the way I was hitting the ball. I had a lot of lip-outs and putts that died in the throat. But I'll take a 65 after the way I started the week."

Bar a late bogey, Dean Burmester also enjoyed a good day at the office.

The George golfer got off to a quick start with an eagle-birdie combo at his second and third holes and got it to seven-under through 15 holes, but let one slip at the par-four ninth. He signed for a 65 to tie for 25th on five-under.

Eric van Rooyen, who led the local challenge with an opening round 67, struggled off the tee and returned a level par 71 to finish on four-under 138 at the halfway mark.

Van Rooyen, currently ranked 34th in the Race to Dubai, will also realise a life-long dream when he debuts at the Gary Player Country Club next week.

George Coetzee carded two rounds of 70 to finish at 140. He is three shots ahead of former Masters champion Trevor Immelman, who went one better than his opening 72, and Richard Sterne, who improved five shots on his first round 74.

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