It was a superb performance by Fisher, who may have seven Sunshine Tour wins but has only one top-three finish – in last year’s Joburg Open – in events co-sanctioned with the European Tour.
Richard Sterne, the 2008 Joburg Open champion, shot a 65 on the tougher East Course later in the day for a share of the lead, with other seasoned European Tour campaigners in George Coetzee and Charl Schwartzel lurking ominously on 12-under and 10-under respectively.
But for Fisher, the Joburg Open represents a chance for him to take the next step in a career that has only really taken off in the last two years. A member of the Sunshine Tour since 2002, the Modderfontein Golf Club member broke into the top 20 on the order of merit for the first time in 2008, breaking into the top 10 in 2011 and finishing fourth in 2012, an achievement which won him the Players’ Player of the Year award earlier this week.
“I think it’s maturity. I’m a late bloomer and I’ve played better as I’ve got older and the last three or four years have been good for me. But I need to get to the next level now. I’ve been here for 10 years and it’s been a good stepping stone to the European Tour, but I’ve stepped on a lot of stones now and it’s time to get to the top,” Fisher said after his fabulous 62 on the West Course on Friday.
Fisher made use of another fast start to settle the nerves and set him on his way. Having birdied the first three holes on the East Course in the first round, on his way to a 66, he eagled the West Course’s second hole on Friday and followed up with a birdie on the third. By way of change, he birdied the last three holes on Friday as well.
“I think you have to feed off those nerves, they’re always there. It was a great day out there. Everything just happened for me and I sank the putts I needed to sink. I was patient with myself, I walked slow and did everything slow, and it was just a good day,” Fisher said.
“You’ve got to be in the moment, you can’t think about your score … I think that’s the secret to scoring low around here: not trying to make birdies, but trying to hit good shots,” Fisher added.
Sterne, who has not dropped a shot in 36 holes, is clearly in superb form having finished in second place in last week’s Dubai Desert Classic, but he is still playing cautious golf.
“I was quite conservative, you have to be on this course, and my game didn’t feel great but I putted well and had a couple of good up-and-downs,” Sterne said.
Coetzee, who has finished in the top three seven times in the last two years on the European Tour, is in third place midway through the Joburg Open, having shot an inspired 64 on the East Course on Friday.
With his failure to grab the breakthrough win he surely deserves becoming something of a topic for discussion amongst the media, Coetzee said he was also just trying to stay in the moment and would be happy to finish in the top 10.
“I try not to think about the win. Every now and then it will pop up and you have to get back into the zone, into the now. I tell myself that I want to finish top 10 instead, and that normally calms me down. If the win comes I’ll be happy, but if it doesn’t, as long as I’m playing well, I’ll be happy,” Coetzee said.
Schwartzel was the other golfer to storm up the leaderboard on Friday, shooting a 65 on the West Course to climb from a tie for 25th into a share of fourth with fellow South African Keith Horne and Chile’s Felipe Aguilar.
Schwartzel may have shot six-under-par on the day, but he admitted that he had battled to govern his frustrations, particularly with his putter.
“My putter was the problem, I’ve missed five putts from inside three feet on the last two days and that’s very frustrating. It was even more frustrating today because I hit two or three very nice long putts and that’s the hard part. On 10, I missed a putt from one-and-a-half feet, if I’d tapped it with one hand I probably would have made it!” Schwartzel complained.
He then added, by way of warning to the three golfers ahead of him on the leaderboard: “But my ball-striking was good, where I left off last year. So the big thing is that I’m hitting the ball well and giving myself chances. I just need to make more putts from short range,” Schwartzel said.
How Fisher and Coetzee handle the nerves of chasing down that big win will determine whether they can hold off Sterne, who has five European Tour titles, and serial-winner Schwartzel.