It started slowly for Ross Fisher on Friday, but his second round finished in a rush as he moved to the top of the halfway leaderboard at 13-under-par in the €1.5-million Tshwane Open at The Els Club Copperleaf.
Fisher made five birdies and an eagle as he carded the equal-best round of the day with his seven-under-par 65 to take a one-stroke lead over South African Open champion Morten Orum Madsen into the weekend of the tournament co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and the European Tour.
It was his back nine which vaulted Fisher to the lead after he had started with a birdie and then reeled off eight successive pars ahead of the turn. But a birdie on 10 and another on 13 got his momentum going, and his closing four holes read eagle-birdie-birdie-par.
“It was pretty special. Any time you can do that is very pleasing,” said Fisher. “I made a nice birdie on the start of the back side and then hit a lovely shot into 13 to about a foot and that really got me going. Eagling the par-five was a huge bonus. It was a shame not to birdie 18, but it was nice to cosy that chip up stone dead and walk off seven-under.”
England’s Simon Dyson and Spaniard Carlos del Moral were both well-placed on 11-under, and the leading South Africans were on 10-under, including the trio of Darren Fichardt, Jake Roos and Trevor Fisher Jnr.
Fisher’s charge for the lead was almost upstaged by an extraordinary run by Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey, who made seven birdies in a row from the 10th to the 16th, finishing with a 65 and on 10-under-par with that trio of South Africans.
“I made five in a row at Dunhill Links, which was my record, and then I equalled that yesterday,” said Hoey. “When I made four today, I told myself to just try for my record. I made that, then I tried to break my record. Once I reached seven, I tried not to think of how far I could go.
“I had a good putt for birdie on 17, but the greens had become a little bumpy late in the day and my ball bounced, and still only just lipped out. And I was careless on 18 and didn’t repair a pitch mark, which meant I lipped out again on my birdie putt,” he added.
Fisher is looking to return to the lofty heights he reached at Turnberry in 2009, when he finished 13th behind Stewart Cink in the Open Championship while the world watched and waited with him for his wife to give birth. He also finished fifth in the US Open that year.
“I set high expectations for myself having got to 17 in the world,” he said. “I’ve gotten there before and I know I can get back, it’s just a case of working hard. I haven’t won for a few years, even though I’ve played well. I’ve had chances and the putter has let me down for a number of tournaments and for quite some time now. To see the ball going in yesterday and holing some nice putts today gives me a lot of confidence and it all bodes well for a good weekend.
“I’ve felt ready to win for a long time, it’s just trying to piece all departments of the game together on the same week. I’ve said it many times – the long game has been there for a long time and the putting has let me down. I’m really positive and looking forward to the weekend knowing that the long game is in shape and that I’m putting nicely.”