Ross Fisher (Gallo Images)
Sun City – Ross Fisher knows how to go low at
Gary Player Country Club and he drew on that experience on Thursday 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
“I think the more you play this course, the more you understand
how to play it,” he said. “There’s times where you can be aggressive and
there’s 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 and
winner of the 2012 Nedbank Golf Challenge, Henrik Stenson – in a share of
fourth on three-under.
Amongst 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 local stars to
stake an early claim for a shot at the title all local players want to win.
“Yeah, delighted,” said Fisher of his opening effort. “I was
working my butt off to birdie the last I have to say. 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 five-wood 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. 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,”
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 can miss the fairway about
five to eight yards and you’re okay. Any wider than that and the rough is
really penal and around the greens, as well. You miss the green by five yards,
you can get some really thick, brutal lies out there.
“You have to try and hit fairways, which I didn’t do
particularly well today, but like I say, when I missed fairways, I was in okay
spots, apart from maybe number nine, I was kind of up against the trees near
the fence there, so I didn’t really have much choice there, and then 17.
“But apart from that, when I missed the fairway, I was okay
and able to go for greens. Yeah, maybe scoring might not be quite as deep but
for me I’m still of the mind-set to go out there and attack and try and make as
many birdies as I can and try and shoot as low as possible score that I can.”