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Fichardt leads by 1 in South African golf

CENTURION, South Africa (AP) - Darren Fichardt of South Africa birdied the longest par-5 in European Tour history Thursday to lead the inaugural Tshwane Open by one stroke after the first round.

Fichardt shot a 7-under-par 65 and was one of three players in the top 24 to need only four shots on the 685-yard fourth hole.

``I hit driver, 3-iron, 7-iron and holed a 12-foot putt,'' said Fichardt, who lives 10 minutes from the Els Club course at the Copperleaf Golf and Country Estate. ``But I mean, at that length, into the wind and with the fairways not running, it's not a fun hole.''

Bjorn Akesson of Sweden was at 66, with six players at 67. Darren Clarke opened with a 69 while Michael Campbell was at 72 and Jose Maria Olazabal at 76.

``This golf course is awesome, it's very fair,'' Fichardt said. ``The greens are very soft, so you're able to attack the flags.''

Two weeks ago, Fichardt captured a fourth European Tour title in winning the Africa Open at East London. Last week, he was seventh in a Sunshine Tour event.

``I've been playing for eight weeks in a row and I don't even know what's going on,'' he said. ``I'm just going with the flow and hitting one shot at a time, so I'm looking forward to a break after this week.''

Akesson joined Fichardt in the lead after birdies at Nos. 13 and 14 and an eagle-3 at the 15th. Akesson, however, bogeyed the 17th to drop into second.

In the big group in third were England's David Howell and Gary Lockerbie, South Africa's Charl Coetzee and Jean Hugo, India's Jeev Milkha Singh and Chile's Mark Tullo.

Copyright 2018 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
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