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SA duo tied at the top
Last updated: 16th February 2013
Darren Fichardt gave himself the best opportunity to notch a fourth European Tour victory while Jaco van Zyl could get the monkey off his back after both players snatched pole position from overnight leader Adilson da Silva on moving day at the €1-million Africa Open at the East London Golf Club.
The Brazilian led by three shots at the start of the day but the experienced South African pair battled from behind to lead by two at the end of an intriguing afternoon's play.
As the dust settled, Fichardt's excellent seven-under-par 65 and Van Zyl's equally impressive 68 handed them a share of the lead at 15-under-par 204. The local duo are two shots clear of Da Silva, who posted a 69 for 206, and three shots ahead of Frenchman Gregory Bourdy, who carded a 67.
Emilliano Grillo of Argentina, who posted a top 10 finish last year, blasted into fifth on 11 under with a blistering 64.
Da Silva extended his lead at the start of the day with an eagle-three at par-five third, and looked very much like he would continue to hold sway until disaster struck just before the turn.
The Brazilian failed to get up-and-down from a fairway bunker at the par-four eighth. After his second try dropped in the greenside bunker, he signed for a seven and a bogey at the next hole opened the door for Fichardt and Van Zyl.
Fichardt enjoyed an excellent outward half of 32, which included birdies four birdies, an eagle and a bogey at the ninth, while Van Zyl stretched his advantage over Da Silva to two shots with three birdies on the front nine.
Turning for home, Fichardt's booming drives and pitch-perfect approaches yielded a string of three birdies from 12 to 14, but a miss hit at the 17th left him five feet short of the green. The resulting bogey brought Van Zyl back into play.
The 32-year-old birdied 11, bogeyed 14, drained a 15-footer for birdie at the 15th and another long one for par at 17 to pull level with Fichardt. A great up-and-down from the greenside bunker at the last will see the two European Tour practice partners tee up as the leaders on Sunday.
"It should be a great round, because Jaco and I are great friends," said Fichardt.
"We played just about every practice round together last season in Europe, so we know each other well. He will be gunning for his first European Tour win, so I think he will be under a bit more pressure with me, but I'm looking forward to the match."
Fichardt was pretty solid tee to green, but said his score was definitely helped by a hot short stick.
"The putter was nice and hot," he said. "That putt on three was an absolute beauty - about 20-foot for eagle. And, on 13, I sunk a nice 40-footer for birdie. The game is definitely all there now."
Van Zyl was happy to have found a swing that works with his excellent short game.
"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 and catch up to Darren and it should be a great match on Sunday."
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