Ross Fisher knows how to go low at the Gary Player Country Club and he drew on that experience yesterday as he fired a four-under-par 68 for a share of the first-round lead in the $7-million Nedbank Golf Challenge.
The 2014 Tshwane Open champion opened the 2014 Sun City event with a six-under 66, and, until he dropped a shot on the tough 17th, he looked as if he was going to go very close to that kind of score again this year.
“I think the more you play this course, the more you understand how to play it,” he said.
“There’re times where you can be aggressive and there are times where you need to be strategic.”
“But at the same time, you always know around here, you look at the walk up to the ninth green, you see all the scores, 22-, 24-, 18-, 20-under par, you know you have to shoot really low scores to have a chance around here.”
Fisher shared the lead with Filipe Aguilar of Chile and Korea’s Jeunghun Wang, with seven players – including The Open champion Henrik Stenson, winner of the 2012 Nedbank Golf Challenge – in a share of fourth on three-under.
Among the group on three-under were South Africa’s Jaco van Zyl and George Coetzee.
Thomas Aiken was one shot further back, and Branden Grace carded a one-under 71 to be the brightest of the early domestic stars to stake an early claim for a shot at the title all SA players want to win.
“Yeah, delighted,” Fisher said of his opening effort.
“I was working my butt off to birdie the last. “After bogeying 17, hit a decent drive there. Just had no shot really and did well to salvage bogey. Wanted to try to make birdie because I let a few chances slip on the back side.”
“Didn’t have much choice on 18 because fivewood was kind of bringing the bunker into play, so I had to hit three-iron and I think I had 202, 187 down breeze and just ripped a seven-iron in there and it pitched about 200 yards [183m].”
“Left myself a good look at birdie and myself and Woody read it really well, took our time and was very pleased to see it drop, and 68 is a great start,” he said.
Scoring was tough on a day on which the wind swirled around Sun City, and the rough made players pay for being off line.
“I think it’s a lot more penal if you miss fairways,” he said.
“You miss the green by five yards [4.5m], you can get some really thick, brutal lies out there.”