He was delighted to be back at the Nedbank Golf Challenge on Thursday and Ross Fisher showed that delight with a six-under-par 66 to take a two-stroke lead in the $6.5-million tournament at Gary Player Country Club.
He played in the 2009 and 2010 editions of the tournament where he finished third and fifth respectively, and the seven birdies in his opening round – with just one bogey – suggest he may just be the man to catch in Sunday.
“I’m obviously delighted to be back,” said Fisher, who had a dominant three-shot victory in the Tshwane Open back in March for his first victory since 2010. “It’s definitely one of the tournaments on everybody’s mind after the majors and the World Golf Championships events that you want to qualify for.”
He took full advantage of a degree of familiarity with the course, making four birdies ahead of the turn, and three more up to the 15th. He dropped a shot on the short par-three 16th. “I knew it was past the first trap and short of the second one,” he said of a poor tee shot. “So with there being no rough, I was just hoping it was just off the edge of the green and perched up. Unfortunately it was not perched up enough, but there was a bit of high grass right behind the ball.”
He ended up missing a long par-putt, despite getting a great read off Marcel Siem’s putt.
Siem had the best shot of the day a hole later, when his approach shot took a lucky bounce to the left off the backing mound of a greenside bunker and rolled into the hole on 17. That piece of luck won him a Volvo V40 T5 R-Design motor car.
It also vaulted him to four-under for the round, and a share of second place with two debutants in the tournament, South Africa’s George Coetzee and France’s Alexander Levy.
Levy had the only bogey-free round in the 30-maan field, while Coetzee looked on track to match that until his first putt from the fringe of the 18th took a hop off the face of the putter and finished well short. He took two more to finish up and slipped back to share second with Levy and Siem.
A further two shots back was a group of six players on two-under-par 70, including South African major champions Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, as well as Tim Clark. The others on two-under were Miguel Angel Jimenez, Stephen Gallacher and the big-hitting American Brooks Koepka.