Golf: New putter helps Fichardt to Joburg Open lead

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - A new putter helped South African Darren Fichardt to a 66 on Friday (Feb 24) and a one-shot clubhouse lead in the rain-affected Joburg Open golf championship.

"New putter, new grip and I am very comfortable," said the 41-year-old seeking a fifth European Tour triumph and first since the 2013 Africa Open.

"Putting is scoring and it is nice to stand over a putt and feel like you are going to make it."

Pretoria-born Fichardt tops the leaderboard with an 11-under 132 after playing the east and west courses at a soggy Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.

Torrential rain on Thursday caused a backlog and there was a further delay on Friday, meaning many competitors will only complete their second round on Saturday.

South African Jacques Kruyswijk lies second, one shot behind, after adding a rollercoaster 70 to a first-round 63.

Title-holder Haydn Porteous (67) of South Africa, Anton Karlsson (68) of Sweden, Stuart Manley (67) of Wales and Aaron Rai (69) of England are a stroke further back.

Among those who will not make the halfway cut are former major winners Trevor Immelman (69) of South Africa and Darren Clarke (73) of Northern Ireland.

Hot putting helped Fichardt to four birdies in the first six holes and an eagle three at eight saw him turn in 31, six under for the day.

His second nine was less spectacular with a bogey on 10 and a birdie on the final hole.

"I have not stumbled into this position," stressed the pacesetter. "It has taken a lot of hard work and perseverance.

"During the last seven weeks I have worked really hard and believe it is beginning to pay off." Kruyswijk bogeyed the opening hole and birdied the eighth to complete the outward nine in level par.

The inward half reaped greater reward with four birdies and two bogeys under a largely leaden sky.