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11th May 2024

Hollick makes his move in ‘game of chess’ at Royal Harare

HARARE – The prices you pay for inaccuracy at the Royal Harare Golf Club are steep, but Michael Hollick continues to largely avoid that problem with his precise game taking him to the top of the leaderboard after the third and penultimate round of the FBC Zim Open on Saturday.

Hollick followed up his first two rounds of 66 and 67 with an impressive 68 in the third round, leaving him on 15-under-par and enjoying a one-stroke lead going into Sunday’s final round.

The one-time Sunshine Tour winner made a slow start on Saturday, with a bogey on the par-three second meaning he was one-over after four holes. But he then birdied the fifth and sixth holes, and began the back nine birdie-birdie. Hollick followed up a bogey on the par-three 15th with an eagle on the 16th, and then birdied 17 before dropping a shot on the last hole to halve his lead.

“This golf course is very demanding, there’s not a lot of room for error. You have to be accurate, it’s like a game of chess out there,” Hollick said. “The greens are super-quick, probably the fastest we play on all year and they are very firm now after three days.

“They’re also all elevated with run-offs and narrow entrances to the greens, so if you don’t hit your target then you’re unlikely to get up-and-down. But I’m definitely feeling good, the last few months have been good for me and success breeds confidence. My swing and my short game are good and I’m just sticking to my guns,” Hollick said.

While other golfers have found the back nine at Royal Harare Golf Club especially testing, Hollick’s cool and calm approach saw him prosper there on Saturday as he came home in 33 shots, one or two strokes less than anyone else in the top four.

“Of late, I’ve been making a bogey at the start of my round, but I’ve always been able to recover. I’m quite relaxed, so I just carry on, knowing a birdie is probably around the corner.

“On the back nine today, I hit all the fairways, except for 18, and hit some nice irons, which makes it much easier to get those birdies,” Hollick said.

The evergreen Darren Fichardt is the chief challenger to Hollick, his 69 on Saturday lifting him to 14-under-par. The 48-year-old had four birdies and three bogeys, but an eagle at the par-five sixth made all the difference.

Kieran Vincent is the chief home hope on 11-under-par after a 67, leaving him tied for third with Anthony Michael (71). But two more Zimbabweans, Benjamin Follett-Smith and Kieran’s older brother Scott are one shot further back, alongside MJ Viljoen (66).

Follett-Smith fired the low round of the day, a seven-under-par 65, and was five-under at the turn.