Fisher king crowns rise by beating Tour's best

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The Independent Online

Front-running in big-time golf is difficult enough whatever the conditions, but when the heavens have opened and the golfing gods have unleashed one of their most imposing talents to lead the pursuit, the cement tends to cling to the spikes. Credit to Ross Fisher, then, for emphatically prevailing in a torrid final day of the European Open here yesterday. The young Briton did not simply defy the storm that ripped through Kent; he fended off El Niño while he was at it.

Sergio Garcia was as impressed as anybody in a crowd that went wild when Fisher holed from a bunker on the 18th. The Spaniard, himself, had just shot what he called "one of the top five rounds of my career" and was agog when he looked up at the leaderboard and discovered he had finished a full seven shots behind in second.

"When I arrived here this morning and saw the weather I thought that if I could shoot a four-under 68, which would have been an unbelievable score, I may just have a chance," he said.

As it was, Garcia somehow threaded it between the gusts and puddles to fire a 66 straight from fantasy. Yet he still had absolutely no chance. Fisher saw to that. That grandstand birdie, which delivered a 68 for a 20-under total, was the remarkable finish to a remarkable week for the 27-year-old. Golfing folklore already has it that Fisher teed it up in the first round having never seen this course before. Fatigue and Wimbledon kept him away on Tuesday and Wednesday and when he eventually turned up on the Thursday the prospects for his second Tour title did not seem at all rosy.

But what the boy from Ascot did not yet realise was that this place was made for Ross Fisher. It rewards long, straight driving and few champions, if any, have ever hit it longer or straighter than Fisher did here. Particularly when the gusts arrived and proceeded to scatter Titleists around the Garden of England like grass out of the mower. Under the most intense pressure, Fisher beat the day's average score by six and a half shots. "I made it looked easy, but it certainly wasn't," he said. "It was just my week."

It may prove to be his season as the £400,000 first prize takes him up to the 11th in the Ryder Cup standings, just one place outside the automatic qualifying positions that will make Nick Faldo's team. Fisher has always had the distance and since going to the short-game guru Mark Roe he now has the finesse, so it was no surprise to find a few of the European heavyweights ready to welcome the hero of The London Golf Club into their exclusive club.

Garcia's admiration was obvious, as was that of Padraig Harrington. "You know, some people may be shocked by his win and the scale of it, but none of the players will be," said the Open champion. "We all know how good Ross is and would feel he's capable of doing this more regularly. Give him time and experience and I certainly expect him to become a mainstay on the European Tour."

While Fisher's triumph was, indeed, spectacular and bodes so well for the ever-glowing future of British golf, Garcia's own magnificence should not be overlooked. Especially with the Open at Royal Birkdale looming.

Not only was the 28-year-old ready to rank his final round right up there but he was also prepared to afford No 1 status to his display on the greens.

"That's definitely the best putting round I've ever had," he said. Garcia took just 21 putts, but it was more the smoothness of a stroke remodelled by the American coach Stan Utley which excited all those who would like to see him make up for last year's agonising loss at Carnoustie.

On this evidence, if Garcia has a seven-footer to win the Claret Jug next week he will not be lipping it. He will be sipping from it.