x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

That was neat: Fisher romps into joint lead

'I didn't miss many fairways,' the Englishman says after tying the Earth Course record in Dubai.

Ross Fisher watches a shot on his way to matching the course record and a share of the lead.
Ross Fisher watches a shot on his way to matching the course record and a share of the lead.

DUBAI // Ross Fisher is no stranger to adopting the role of frontrunner in big tournaments, the Englishman having knocked on the door to glory in last year's US and British Opens before slipping off the pace.

He is hoping today and tomorrow to consolidate the strong position he has created for himself in the Dubai World Championship (DWC) after romping past a cluster of big names yesterday to set the halfway pace alongside Ian Poulter in the battle for a US$1.25 million (Dh4.5m) first prize.

Fisher posted the neatest of scorecards containing 11 fours, six threes and a two to enable him to match Lee Westwood's course record of 64 set last year.

Fisher did not know that he required an eighth birdie of the day to tie the record. "It would have been disappointing not to have birdied the final hole," he said after rolling in the last of the 29 putts he had in a round during which he hit every green in regulation.

"I didn't miss many fairways either," he said after his rise from joint 17th overnight into a share of the halfway lead. "And I drove the ball fantastically well."

Fisher admitted to struggling to cope with the Earth Course last year when he arrived in Dubai as one of four players who could finish on top of the money list.

"It's a real tough, demanding golf course," he said. There's a lot of approach shots you play uphill, and you can't see three quarters of the pins. This year, maybe just having the whole of my family here, has made me feel a little bit more relaxed. There is not so much pressure as last year when obviously I had a chance to win."

Paul Casey knows what it takes to win in these parts, the Englishman having been twice a winner of the Abu Dhabi Championship, and he served notice that he is going to be in the shake-up tomorrow evening by firing a round of 67.

The world No 7 confessed to being too cautious at the start of the tournament and decided to take a more aggressive approach midway through his opening round on Thursday. Since then, Casey, has been nine under par for his last 24 holes and is oozing confidence.

"Why not?" he said when asked whether he fancies his chances. The leaderboard is stacked with Europe's finest. It's going to be a very tough battle from now on."

Casey, who missed out on a wild card entry into Europe's Ryder Cup team, admitted it took some time to get over his disappointment.

"It was tough watching it, he said. "But I can only blame myself for not doing enough to qualify by right. The lads played so well. Sunday was exciting and I desperately wanted to be a part of that. It certainly stoked the fire and it's something I don't want to be on the outside of ever again."