Notes: Fichardt puts family in Florida Swing
You’ve just finished tied for 40th in the WGC-Cadillac Championship. How are you going to celebrate? “I’m going to Disney World,” Darren Fichardt said.
Actually, it didn’t come off exactly like that, but Fichardt, 38, clearly had planned to take advantage of his first trip to the United States since playing in the 2007 U.S. Open. His appearance at the Cadillac at Trump National Doral was parlayed into a family vacation with wife Natasha and sons Ethan, 8, and Tristan, 6. From Doral they were headed to the Tampa area to be reunited with Fichardt’s brother, Gary, whom Darren hasn’t seen in seven years, then it was off to see Mickey Mouse & Co.
“The kids are very excited,” said Fichardt, a South African who is similarly pleased to be back in the game full-time.
For four seasons (2008-11), Fichardt didn’t feel like much of a touring professional. Combined, he played in just 27 European PGA Tour tournaments over that time, his health woes starting when he pulled some neck muscles while working out. “It went from the neck to the elbow, to tendinitis in the hand, back to the next and elbow," Fichardt said. "It kept jumping back and forth."
He broke through for a European victory in 2012, at the Saint-Omer Open, added the Africa Open in 2013, which helped him to finish 48th in the Race to Dubai standings. With the resurgence, Fichardt earned a spot into last week’s World Golf Championship. It was just his fourth professional tournament on American soil, having played at Oakmont in 2007 and the Memorial Tournament in 2004 and 2000.
Fichardt shot 73-78-72-72 at Doral, but gushed about the resort, the course, and the entire week. “Awesome,” he said. “Really, really awesome.”
The $63,500 paycheck will come in handy, given his post-Doral travels, but Fichardt will soon have more time off. Once he returns to South Africa, he’ll played the final two events on the Sunshine Tour, then take a six-week vacation before swinging back onto the European PGA Tour in mid-May.
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LEVEL PAR, UNDER KNIFE: Another South African, Richard Sterne, had a solid weekend at Doral (70-71) to move up the leaderboard and finish joint fourth at even par, good for $395,000. It was his best finish in a PGA Tour tournament, surpassing the T-9 he posted at last summer’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
So, how was Sterne going to celebrate his good fortune?
By going in for surgery on his left hip.
“It’s been bothering me for seven months," Sterne said. "I was going to to do it in December, but I’ve been delaying it, delaying it, delaying it. I’ve got to do it. Eventually it’s got to get done.”
So the 32-year-old Sterne figures, “Why not now?” while he’s in the United States. After all, he has settled on Dr. Marc Philippon in Vail, Colo., and Sterne said he’ll go there directly from the Arnold Palmer Invitational, if he gets an invite; if not, Sterne will have the surgery even sooner.
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GOOD SHOWING: Peter Uihlein appeared comfortable and confident as he put together a solid weekend (71-72) at the Blue Monster for a T-25, one week after having missed the cut at the Honda Classic.
“It was a nice experience. I had flashes of hitting it well, flashes of putting it well, so it was more encouraging,” said the former U.S. Amateur champion, who has played beautifully on the European PGA Tour and risen to No. 73 in the Official World Golf Ranking. “I felt more comfortable coming into this week than I felt going into last week (the Honda).”
He will play a third straight tournament at Innisbrook starting today, then he will rest for two weeks before teeing it up at the Valero Texas Open (March 27-30) and Shell Houston Open (April 3-6).
It should provide Uihlein, 24, enough of a push to try and earn a Masters berth.
• Check Golfweek.com Thursday morning for more weekly news and notes from Jim McCabe.