OLIVER Fisher carded eight birdies on the opening day to take a one-shot lead at the Qatar Masters.
The Englishman’s only blemish in a seven-under-par 65 was when he bogeyed the 13th hole, but he edged Rafael Cabrera-Bello of Spain by one stroke on an eventful first day at Doha Golf Club.
Paul Lawrie, twice a winner of this event, led the Scottish challenge after shooting a 67 to sit in an 11-way tie for third on five under, while Stephen Gallacher and Scott Jamieson returned four-under 68s.
David Drysdale was a further two strokes back after a 70, closely followed by Marc Warren and Chris Doak who carded 71s. However, Richie Ramsay (73) and Craig Lee (75) have work to do in the second round. Fisher won the Czech Open in 2011 but then went two years without finishing among the top ten before finding his form last year.
“I played nice, it was a little bit breezy, and I felt like I controlled my golf ball,” said the 26-year-old who started in the afternoon from the tenth hole and posted a hat-trick of birdies from the 16th hole before carding three more at the fourth, sixth and eighth.
Ernie Els, who joined Lawrie at five under, was especially pleased with his putting.
“I’m actually not a grumpy guy, I’m quite a happy guy, but when you’re not making putts, you can’t help yourself,” Els said.
Defending champion Sergio Garcia, making his first European Tour start of the season, finished at three under.
Cabrera-Bello set the early pace by playing an immaculate opening round with six birdies. His best came on the par-3 eighth where his tee shot finished a few feet away from the pin.
World No 5 Justin Rose carded four under, along with Ryder Cup team-mate Gallacher, Matt Fitzpatrick, Damien McGrane and Jamieson.
“They kind of made us feel like there’s a score to be had out there,” Rose said. “It’s nice to be somewhere in contention, and it’s a score on which to build for the rest of the week.”