Fisher finally finds form to seize lead at Wales Open

Ross Fisher has dropped 130 places on the world rankings since he played in the last Ryder Cup, but he now hopes the good times are back.

Thanks to a five-under-par second round of 66 at Celtic Manor – scene of his Ryder Cup debut two years ago – the 31-year-old leads the ISPS Handa Wales Open at the halfway point.

“Hopefully this will be the start of a big summer for me,” said Fisher, who has not had a single top-five finish for almost 18 months. “I guess it’s the dreaded curse of the comedown from the Ryder Cup. You have such high expectations and it’s been disappointing.”

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He now stands 157th in the world, is not in the field for the upcoming US Open – he had a chance to win that three years ago – and is down at 72nd on the Ryder Cup points table with only 12 weeks of the race to go. Amazingly, there are 19 other English players ahead of him in that.

“Once you’ve played one you don’t want to miss one,” Fisher added. “It’s still a goal of mine, but it’s a big outside goal at the moment because I’ve got to play damn well to get on that team.

“I made an equipment change this year – I just felt the time was right – and it’s probably taken me longer to adjust than I would have liked. But if I can play how I’ve played the first two days, especially today, I feel like I’m really tough to beat. It’s always nice to come back to a good hunting ground. The Ryder Cup was a great experience – I played really well and really enjoyed it.”

Fisher’s round actually began with a bogey six, but then came four birdies and two more to finish with from 12 and five feet established a lead that at one point was four shots.

First-round leader Lee Slattery, who is US Open-bound after qualifying on Monday, then cut the gap to two by adding a 71 to his opening 67. He did well to come back into the picture after three bogeys in his first eight holes. A 50-foot putt on the next revived his spirits, he then made a 25-footer for eagle on the 562-yard 11th and he holed from 18 feet on the last.

“The swing certainly didn’t feel as good,” the Southport golfer said. “It was one of those battling days. I just managed to compose my thoughts and that’s why we do psychology. I had a break from it and it was probably a mistake. I felt I knew everything – as golfers do. We’re quite stubborn and selfish.”

Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti would have been alongside him but for three-putting his last green to drop alongside Bristol’s Chris Wood and Thai Thongchai Jaidee.

Scoring was much improved in the calmer and warmer conditions, but Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal will not be around for the weekend. A triple bogey seven on the 16th ended his hopes and coming off the final tee he even gave a youngster in the crowd his driver before completing a 75 and nine over aggregate.

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Scot Paul Lawrie, second in the cup standings after his runners-up finish in the BMW PGA Championship last Sunday, made it through on one over thanks to a 69 and 2010 captain Colin Montgomerie survived as well at four over. The Duke of Roxburghe’s son Ted Innes Ker lasted only two days. He was given a special invitation by the sponsors, but had rounds of 86 and 78.