Thursday 14 December 2017

Fisher holds nerve to break Tour duck


William S Callahan

OLIVER FISHER emerged from the darkness to register what promises to be the first of many victories on the European Tour at the Czech Open yesterday.

Fisher is just 22, but it has taken him five gruelling years as a professional to make this breakthrough on Tour and begin to fulfil the potential which, during his mid-teens, ranked him alongside Rory McIlroy as the hottest amateur prospect in these islands.

Indeed, the Londoner became the youngest player to represent Great Britain and Ireland at the Walker Cup in 2005, the year McIlroy made nonsense of the selectors' decision to omit him from that side by shooting a stunning course record 61 in the Northern Ireland Amateur at Royal Portrush.

While McIlroy turned professional after the Walker Cup in 2007, won the Dubai Desert Classic in 2009 and the Quail Hollow Championship in 2010 and marched to a record-breaking first Major victory at June's US Open, Fisher struggled on Tour.

Before yesterday, the closest he had come to victory was at the 2008 Open de Andalucia, where he was beaten in a play-off by Thomas Levet. He lost his Tour card in 2009 and had to go back to Q-School. He endured an intensely worrying run this year in which he made the weekend just once in his first 20 events.

Inevitably, there were a couple of little hiccups on the way home yesterday, especially as he stumbled to a three-putt bogey on the short but treacherous 15th hole at Prosper Golf Resort near Ostrava.

Yet Fisher settled his nerves by holing out from the back fringe for birdie four at 16 after leaking his drive right and hitting a poor second shot out of the rough with his hybrid.

When another birdie at 17 eased him to 13-under and two ahead of his nearest challenger Mikael Lundberg of Sweden, Fisher coolly completed the exacting final hole safely in par to complete a hugely popular first Tour victory.

Shane Lowry finished on a high with birdies on three of his final four holes making up for a double-bogey at 12 and bogey at 13. The Clara man's closing 69 included six birdies and lifted him into a tie for 16th on four-under, worth €19,838.

Ireland's best finisher was Damien McGrane, who shared ninth place on six-under after a final-round 72 in which the Meath man's putter was the coldest club in his bag. But McGrane still collected his biggest cheque of 2011, €30,400 in only his second top-10 of the season.

A triple-bogey seven at the seventh hole knocked the wind out of Paul McGinley's sails as a final-round 75 dropped him into a tie for 23rd.

After putting sublimely on his way to Thursday's 66, Peter Lawrie lost that magic touch on the greens as he tumbled to 37th place on one-over (worth €10,200) after yesterday's closing 73.

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