Run-down Fisher drives 'blind' to lowest score of his career
Friday 04 July 2008
You play six tournaments in seven weeks (including the toughest major known to man), you then go through 36 holes of Open qualifying on the Monday, have one or two Pimm's at Wimbledon on the Tuesday, consider pulling out when still feeling tired on the Wednesday, before deciding you better tee it up in the first round early on the Thursday despite never having clapped eyes on the course in your life. And what do you?
You shoot the lowest score of your career, during which you hit the longest drive of your career and proceed to leave Graeme McDowell and David Frost two shots behind in a prestigious European Open field. Well, you do if your name is Ross Fisher, a young man who is rapidly turning "ignorance is bliss" into a golfing cliché. The one and only other time that the 27-year-old from Ascot had played a Tour event "blind" – i.e. without a practice round – was last November's HSBC Champions Tournament in Shanghai and he ended up taking Phil Mickelson to the second hole of a sudden-death play-off.
"Perhaps I should do it all the time," joked Fisher. Believe it. If they thought it would lead to a nine-under 63, containing 10 birdies with six coming in the last six holes then every bloke with a diamond sweater would do it all the time. Including Tiger.
What made Fisher's morning all the remarkable were the windy conditions. This Jack Nicklaus-designed layout in deepest Kent is hardly the most foreboding, but the rough is certainly deep when located, as the majority of the field could testify. Inevitably, Fisher put the bulk of his fantastical deeds down to his driving and, crikey, was it "bulky". Especially the boomer down his last hole (the ninth) which drew a simple reaction from one startled onlooker behind the tee – "That's sick".
It was later worked out to have travelled 413 yards and although that was wind-assisted Fisher was not about to let that minimise the titanium magnitude. "You can probably take a little bit off it," he said. "But it was still big." When told about the drive and indeed the score, Colin Montgomerie commented: "Ross is Nadal-like. He's so strong. He hits it so far."
The caddie is not bad either. Granted, Adam Marrow did try to persuade Fisher to withdraw after a gruelling day at Sunningdale at the beginning of the week – when the player ranked 104th in the world was one of 18 players from a field of 120 to win a place at Royal Birkdale in two weeks' time – but the manner in which he navigated his man around the layout was exemplary. Marrow's nickname should be "Tom Tom". And what a route they took to their destination.
The pair came to the fourth (their 13th) on three-under and then in Fisher's words, "It all became a bit weird, a bit surreal". A sand-wedge to eight feet, a holed bunker shot and a 20-foot putt were just three of the strikes that featured in his sextuplet.
"I've never had six in a row before, three or maybe four," said Fisher, who four weeks ago played in his first US Open. "That was the lowest score I've had as a pro and probably the most solid round." Since seeking help from Europe's newest chipping guru, the former Tour professional Mark Roe, Fisher has improved immeasurably and a victory here would haul him into the automatic qualification positions for the Ryder Cup. He would not be out of place on Nick Faldo's team.
Nor, for that matter, would McDowell. The Ulsterman has returned to form with a vengeance this year and is 11th in the Ryder standings. A 65 left him perfectly poised to launch a challenge for this £400,000 first prize.
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