The Englishman was the picture of elegance as he fired a six-under-par 66, opening up a two-shot lead on the three players on four-under – South Africa’s George Coetzee, Germany’s Marcel Siem and Frenchman Alexander Levy.
The only dropped shot in Fisher’s round came on the par-three 16th when he missed the green left, but otherwise the Tshwane Open champion was immaculate off the tee, setting up the seven birdies he scattered through his round, on his third appearance in the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
“I felt my driver was really good, I didn’t miss many fairways. This is the sort of course where you don’t want to be overly aggressive, but I like to hit driver a lot – I’m generally quite long and pretty straight. I did use three-wood on a few holes and hit a hybrid on 18, but using driver paid off well,” Fisher said.
Siem, who has won a European Tour event in each of the last three years and claimed a victory on South African soil when he won the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Houghton Golf Club in 2004, had the most remarkable card.
A bogey on the par-four sixth and a birdie on the par-five ninth were the calm before the storm. His back nine featured four birdies, two bogeys and an eagle, when he sank his eight-iron from 168 metres on the par-four 17th, enabling him to take home a Volvo V40 T5 R-Design car worth nearly R400 000.
Coetzee was also more than happy with his round, which started superbly with three successive birdies, but became a battle on the back nine. Having matched Fisher stroke-for-stroke on the first 11 holes, Coetzee did extremely well to not drop a shot until the 18th hole.
“I’m happy with my round, to start with three birdies was special, a wonderful surprise. The first 11 holes, my ball-striking was great but this game does not go perfect all the time and I made a couple of mistakes, bad shots, on the back nine but managed to recover well. On 18 I hit my second long left, I duffed a five-iron, but you can’t have everything your way in golf,” Coetzee said.
Fisher said his sole bogey came after his “one loose shot”.
“To have one bad shot in 18 holes, you can’t be unhappy, I’ll definitely take that. Hopefully I can put together three more solid rounds and give myself a chance to win on the back nine on Sunday,” Fisher said.
Coetzee said he has been working on his pre-shot routines and another golfer whose game is clearly a work in progress at the moment is Charl Schwartzel.
The highest-ranked South African golfer managed to limit the damage when he did find himself in trouble, shooting a 70 to finish in a tie for fifth place with veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez, fellow South Africans Tim Clark and Louis Oosthuizen, Scotsman Stephen Gallacher and Brooks Koepka of the United States.
Defending champion Thomas Bjorn had a disastrous day, an eight-over-par 80 leaving him in last place.
Levy, playing in the Nedbank Golf Challenge for the first time, looked in control of his game throughout with two birdies in each nine.