Fisher's 'quiver-free zone' keeps Tiger at bay

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The Independent Online

Ross Fisher is living the dream - in fact he is driving, chipping and putting it. A second successive 65 yesterday took him two shots clear of Ernie Els, four ahead of the group in third and five in front of Tiger Woods.

It is that last fact which is threatening to make the story of this hitherto unheralded young Englishman the yarn of the entire season. He is 293 places behind Woods in the world rankings and more than £350m in career earnings. But for now, at this Desert Classic at least, this outrageous outsider from Ascot is his better. Credit to Fisher, then, for keeping his emotions in check and his bottom lip a quiver-free zone. "I feel really calm and really at ease," he said. "I know deep down that I'm good enough and I feel like I'm ready to win. All I've got to do is carry on playing the way I am, as this is as good as I've hit the ball. Remain in this form and I know where I'm going."

Last night, that destination was his hotel room to do what he always does on a school night - recording his stats. This particular entry would have been more enjoyable than usual and, for that matter, more straightforward as his second round was remarkably similar to the first. Just like Thursday, eight birdies were joined by the solitary bogey as his game continued to scale new heights.

"This is undoubtedly the best 36 holes I've played since turning pro," he said. As the 26-year-old joined the Tour only a year ago that statement is not so grand, although his rise most definitely has been. The son of a shower salesman, he gained a scholarship to Wentworth when he was 13 and used to earn his spare cash collecting balls off the range whenever the superstars would roll up at the Surrey course. Dubai folklore already has it that included one Tiger Woods, and yesterday the world No 1 was as surprised as anyone to see his former ball boy up there. "That is absolutely great playing," he said, far from aggrieved at his own 67.

If Woods had witnessed Fisher's drive down the par-five 18th then his praise might have been even more generous. An indication of this young man's ability is that he did not seem at all impressed when quizzed about the 327-yard fairway-splitter. Meanwhile, the extent of his expectation is best gauged by his reply to the query of the length of his average drive. "It's actually not very far this season," he said. "Only about 305 yards."

There are few professionals who would turn their nose up at that, although Els is obviously one of them. The South African might even catch Fisher this morning when he completes his second round. He has four holes left after a storm interrupted play for two hours. On the resume, puddles on the desert gave proceedings a surreal feel, before Els started to mop up. An eagle on the 13th took him to 12-under and within touching distance of Fisher. But it was proving an almighty stretch up to cloud nine.

* Europe's Ryder Cup Committee has decided there is no need to change the selection system under which the Americans have twice been sent to record defeats. While the new United States captain, Paul Azinger, has introduced four wild cards and a new points structure, Europe's line-up for Valhalla next year will again comprise five players based on world ranking points, five from the European Order of Merit and two wild cards.