Fichardt has wife to thank for win in Doha

PALM BEACH GARDENS (Florida): Justin Leonard birdied the final six holes but fellow American Davis Love made four back-nine birdies himself to keep a one-stroke lead here on Saturday at the PGA Honda Classic. 

Love birdied the par-5 17th and parred the 18th to complete a bogey-free seven-under 65 third round, holding off Leonard to lead with a tournament record 20-under 196 after 54 holes. 

“I played well all day,” Love said. “I putted well from 8 on, got the score I needed to get. You need at least 7- or 8-under to keep up. After the start, it was a very good round.” 

Leonard fired a 64 to seize second at 197, one stroke ahead of playing partner Chris Riley, who birdied the final four holes to complete a 65 and take third place for a spot in the final threesome. 

“Love and Leonard, they are Hall of Famers in my book,” Riley said. “They will be the guys to beat tomorrow.” 

Six others, including Paraguay's Carlos Franco, were on 199. That included Woody Austin, who matched an 18-hole course-record with a bogey-free 63. After starting on the 10th tee, he played his final 13 holes in nine-under par. 

In all, 20 rivals were within five shots of Love on a Mirasol Country Club course that has been yielding low rounds all week. 

n DOHA: Darren Fichardt almost didn't make it to Doha over fears of war breaking out in the region. But yesterday he had no words to thank his wife after she cajoled him into making the trip that swelled his bank balance by a whopping US$250,000. 

Fichardt provided the perfect climax to the sand storm battered US$1.5 million tournament by beating fellow South African James Kingston in a thrilling sudden-death play-off for his second title on the European Tour. 

The 28-year-old birdied the par five 18th hole where the sudden-death was held to put it past Kingston who could only manage a par after both players had fought a tense battle over the final two rounds. 

“My wife, Natasha, who is my 'mental doctor' always tells me to stay in the present and that is why I made the trip to Doha for the tournament,” said Fichardt, whose only previous title on the European Tour has come in the 2001 Sao Paulo Brazil Open. 

“I met her after she had completed her degree in sports psychology and she has always been giving me good advice since,” he added. – Agencies 

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