Narrow lead on home soil for in-form Fichardt with Willett close behind

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Darren Fichardt topped the leaderboard on day one of the inaugural Tshwane Open after he carded a seven-under-par 65 at Copperleaf.

The South African, who is attempting to claim his second successive win on home soil after victory in the Africa Open two weeks ago, scored 31 on the back nine before firing birdies on the first, fourth and sixth holes to take a one-stroke lead over countryman Keith Horne and Sweden’s Bjorn Akesson.

Fichardt, 37, showed his intent on the Ernie Els-designed course as he claimed one of his birdies on the par four 685-yard fourth hole – the longest in European Tour history.

Horne dropped a shot on that hole while Akesson hit an eagle on the 15th before a bogey on the par-three 17th saw him miss out on the chance to tie for the lead overnight.

“The swing is good and I’m putting well,” said Fichardt. “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.”

England’s Gary Lockerbie was fourth on five under with countryman David Howell, Chile’s Mark Tullo, Indian Jeev Milkha Singh and South African Jean Hugo.

Sheffield’s Danny Willett was one shot further back after an opening round of 68, with Hull’s Richard Finch a further two shots behind. Harrogate’s John Parry carded a 76, one shot better than Malton’s Simon Dyson.