By Michael Vlismas
Alastair Roper, the Tournament Director of the Nedbank Golf Challenge, made the announcement at the traditional media day on Tuesday that marks the closing of the Gary Player Country Club course as they enter the final preparations for this year’s tournament.
Fisher, the current leader on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, will tee it up at Sun City in what has been a revival of his career in South Africa this season.
Playing the kind of golf he felt was similar to when he was contending in Majors and playing in the Ryder Cup, Fisher was sitting on a five-stroke lead on the Saturday night of the Tshwane Open in March this year.
And driven by his desire to return to the highs of once being ranked 17th in the world, finishing fifth in the 2009 US Open, tied 13th in the 2009 Open Championship and making the European team for the 2010 Ryder Cup, Fisher was a man on a mission.
“I feel like I’m playing as good as I ever have, probably similar to when I was contending in Majors and getting myself into the Ryder Cup team. If I were to win here it would be a massive confidence boost and a step in the right direction,” Fisher said that Saturday.
“My primary goal is to get back in the top 50. I’ve been there before and I feel like I belong there.”
He did win on that weekend in March. Fisher claimed his first victory in almost four years when he won the Tshwane Open by three strokes.
It was his first win on the European Tour since 2010, and ended a lengthy slump for one of the most talented golfers in the game.
And it was a timely boost for a man who never stopped believing in himself.
“You see guys like Henrik Stenson who got to the top of the game, disappeared, came back, disappeared, and now he’s back where he belongs. You see guys like that come through adversity, drift off and come back. Lee Westwood is another one. I wouldn’t say my slump was anywhere near as drastic as theirs, but I’ve missed being in the top 50 and playing in the Majors and that’s where I want to be. Hopefully this is a step in the right direction for me.”
It certainly did spark a revival in his game in 2014, and he came close to another title when he lost a playoff for the BMW Masters to Germany’s Marcel Siem.
It’s been a tough climb back for Fisher, who believes he may well have been a victim of his own success so early in his career.
“I got to 17 in the world because of my Major performances, but like a few other guys I had a big comedown after the Ryder Cup having achieved the second pinnacle of golf outside of winning a Major and so early in my career. Maybe I suffered a bit from Ryder Cupitis, as I called it. It also took me a bit of time to adjust to an equipment switch I made.”
But the 33-year-old is ready to start contending at the highest level again.
“I want to win tournaments by a couple of shots. I feel like the game is good enough for that.”
Born: 22 November 1980.
Turned pro: 2004.
Family: Wife – Joanne. Children – Eve, Harry.
Special interests: Cars, movies.
Career highlights: Claimed his first European Tour victory in the 2007 KLM Open, and has gone on to win five times on the European Tour. Won the Irish Open in 2010 to book his place on the European Ryder Cup team that year. In 2009 he at one stage led in all four of the Major championships that year.
2014 highlights: Started off the year with a victory in the Tshwane Open in March. Finished tied eighth in the Irish Open, tied seventh in the Italian Open and tied second in the BMW Masters.
2014 Majors: The Masters – Did not play. The US Open – Did not play. The Open – Missed cut. The PGA Championship – Missed cut.
NGC record: Third appearance. 2009 – 3rd, 2010 – 5th.