Darren Fichardt. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
Darren Fichardt. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

Defending champion Darren Fichardt will try to become only the second South African to win the Joburg Open twice when the 2017 event tees off at Randpark Golf Club on Thursday.

Richard Sterne was the last South African to do the double, winning in 2008 and 2013.

The Joburg Open‚ which is normally played on the two courses at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington‚ has been moved to Firethorn and Bushwillow courses.

As he wrapped up his preparations on Wednesday‚ Fichardt said he was not bothered by the change of venue.

"I last played Randpark a few years ago and it’s pretty much ‘what you see is what you get’. I don’t know Bushwillow‚ so I’ll have to check that out blind tomorrow," he said.

"But the courses are pretty much standard highveld parklands courses and I know those well. The greens are running nicely‚ so I’ll be looking for fairways and greens and go from there," said Fichardt.

"I am not worried too much about length because that’s not much of an issue on either course," he said.

Fichardt finished 68th on the European tour’s Race to Dubai in the 2017 season and is looking forward to playing the South African events in the form of the Joburg Open‚ the BMW SA Open and the Tshwane Open.

"I didn’t play as many tournaments as I usually do last year, with family issues. My mother-in-law was battling cancer but she’s healthy again. So I’m looking forward to playing a lot more than I did last year."

The other South African to look out for in the tournament is Dylan Frittelli, who has never played at Bushwillow before.

"But I have my caddie and yardage book‚ so I’m sure we will figure it out tomorrow and make some birdies‚" he said.

However‚ Frittelli is happy to keep his practising down to a minimum when he plays on courses he knows and is secure in the knowledge that Firethorn at Randpark will be a more familiar environment.

"I played here as a junior‚" he said. "I played a foundation event, probably in 2006, and then came back about five or six weeks ago.

"I have a friend who is a member‚ so I played a round with him on the Firethorn course," he said. "It’s totally changed since the last time I played it."

• Local favourite Louis Oosthuizen has pulled out of the event after a freak accident that will go down as one of sport’s more unusual injuries.

The 2010 British Open champion hurt his fingers when they were caught between two airport trollies as he returned to SA from competing at the Mauritius Open last weekend.

Oosthuizen, who is in severe pain and unable to grip his clubs, said he did not want to risk starting a tournament he could not finish and deny another player the chance to compete.

"This morning is even worse than it was yesterday. I tried to grip a golf club but there’s no way I can go to my grip position," Oosthuizen said.

"It’s a bit of an unfortunate one, but I don’t want to tee off on Thursday and play one hole or a few shots and then withdraw after taking someone’s spot. So I’m going to have to withdraw from this one."

Cody Martin of the US has been drafted into Oosthuizen’s three-ball, which also includes last week’s winner in Mauritius, Frittelli, and Jazz Janewattananond of Thailand.

TimesLIVE, additional reporting Reuters

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