It scarcely mattered in the end, but Ross Fisher was disappointed to bogey the 18th on his way to an emphatic three-stroke victory on Sunday at The Els Club Copperleaf as he triumphed in the €1.5-million Tshwane Open.
“I would have liked to have had all four rounds in the 60s,” said the 33-year-old from Ascot, England, “but I’m really pleased to be getting the trophy.” He finished at 20-under-par 268 for the tournament co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and the European Tour.
Fisher carded a two-under-par 70 to hold off determined challenges by South African Danie van Tonder, who charged through the field with a flawless six-under-par 66, and by Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey, whose challenge sank together with his second shot on the 12th as he deposited his ball in the water, relegating his final round to a four-under-par 68 after he had crept to within one of the lead.
It was a dreary day as it rain fell with varying intensity all day, and that perhaps cramped Fisher’s style as he sought his first victory since the 2010 Irish Open. That was a gap of three years and 213 days, and it was a drought that he was ready to break.
“I saw the weather wasn’t too great when I turned up, and I had to be prepared,” he said. “I had plenty of extra towels, the umbrella was up, the umbrella was down, I had to put waterproof trousers on because the white trousers were going to get absolutely ruined… it was just a tough day.”
He started well enough, making birdie on the opening hole, but a bogey on three saw Hoey edge closer. And when the Northern Irishman eagled the longest hole in European Tour history – the 626-metre (685-yard) fourth – the game was on.
“Mike really started to push me,” said Fisher. “I felt like I was giving myself chances, but I couldn’t buy a putt. Then I made a very good birdie on seven, and a good par on nine. So I knew I had a few shots to spare going into the back nine which has been very good to me this week.”
It had been equally good to Hoey – more so, perhaps, after he made seven birdies in a row there during his second round – and a birdie-four on the 11th for him brought him within one shot of Fisher.
“The big thing for me was seeing Mike hit it in the water on 12,” said Fisher. “That’s when I went back to three shots ahead.
“I knew there was still a lot of golf to be played. I hit some good shots coming in, and the biggest moment was 15. I hit a really good drive there and flushed a hybrid in. I knew the putt for eagle was going to break a little left to right, and to see it drop and have a four-shot lead with three to play, I knew I could kind of coast home.”
For the man who finished fifth in the 2009 US Open, and reached the rarefied heights of 17th in the world rankings, the victory was sweet. While it doesn’t catapult him back to htose kinds of heights just yet, he will move inside the top 65 in the world from 82nd.
But more than that, it was the way it was achieved. “I knew I could win, given my third place in the Alfred Dunhill Championship and top 10 in the Joburg Open,” he said. “I was playing very well, and everything about the way this week unfolded just felt right.
“It’s been coming for some time, but the putting has just let me down a bit. This week I holed more putts than I have for a very long time. I’m excited for the rest of the year.”