FORMER champion, Darren Fichardt, fired the first shots and finished tied with two other golfers on six-under-par 66 after the opening round of this year edition of the Golden Pilsner Zimbabwe Open at Royal Harare yesterday. Italian national, Aron Zemmer, and South Africa's Darryn Lloyd also carded 66 to end the first day as the overnight leaders, two strokes ahead of four other players who were on 68.
Fichardt won the Zimbabwe Open in 2001 when he finished with an aggregate of 13-under-par 275 and he now fancies his chances of making it a double this year where he is one of the top ranked players.
The cut will be made after today's round when the field of 156 is whittled to 65.
Yesterday Fichardt said he did his best to shake off the rust as he parred six holes and shot three bogeys on holes seven, eight and 15 while scoring an impressive seven birdies along the way.
"I have not played for three weeks, so it was a bit scrappy out there as I finished bogey-bogey-birdie, but my putting definitely has not yet forsaken me," said Fichardt, winner of the Africa Open in February.
Zemmer believes it was a good start but he could have done better had he not dropped three shots.
"The greens are very low although the course is very perfect. I played well but hope I will play better than this but at the same time I am happy with my performance today," said Zemmer.
Jared Harvey, Divan van den Heever, Charl Coetzee, Titch Moore and Mark Murless are trailing on 4-under par 68 while defending champion Chris Swanepoel remains in contention as he finished one stroke behind in ninth place. Theunis Spagenberg, who won the tournament in 2011, is on tied with Swanespoel, Jake Roos and Zimbabwe's teenage sensation Sean Crocker.
United States based teenager Crocker is also the top Zimbabwean in the field after the first round and is enjoying his place with his father, former Zimbabwe cricketer Gary Crocker, being his caddie.
German national, Hendrik Burhmann, who finished on 1 over 73, could have finished on level par but failed to hold his nerve on the 18th hole.
He elected to tee off with an iron and struck the ball perfectly well while Jacques Blaaw crashed his effort into the trees and Daniel Green hit the sand bunker.
Burhamann's approach found the green but he could only two putt after his initial putt missed the hole by inches.
"I tried my best, could not get the eagle and the ball was right in the hole but it was a little slow because of the grass and it could not go in,' said Burhamann. I am not perfect at all and I wish I was perfect.
"But I was happy, I just did not pick up that they will be a little grass and the shot will be a little slower."
Burhamann will be playing in the morning today and he remains confident of making the cut.
"Afternoon is always very tough to play in because the greens have got firmer and crisper. It's the nature of bent grass as it has got a little bit more hill marks and spike marks.
"It's very tough playing in the afternoon as you can see the scores were better in the morning but tomorrow (today) I am playing in the morning and it's going to be my turn.
He hopes to do even better today.
"At least, I have got the feeling for the greens now and I think I have played nicely in the last couple of holes where I have putted nicely and I am looking forward to tomorrow.
"I was not over confident but I learnt to be humble and the ball just beat me there.