Fisher, in return to Ryder Cup venue, takes two-shot lead at Wales Open

Ross Fisher at the ISPS Handa Wales Open
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Ross Fisher's second round began with a bogey, but then came a group of four birdies and then two more to finish.
By news services

Series: European Tour

Published: Friday, June 01, 2012 | 3:31 p.m.

NEWPORT, Wales -- Englishman Ross Fisher took a two-stroke lead at the ISPS Handa Wales Open Friday after shooting a 5-under par 66 in the second round at Celtic Manor.

Overnight leader Lee Slattery of England could only manage a par 72 to remain at 4 under at 138 for second.

Fabrizio Zanotti of Paraguay holds a share of third place after shooting a 69 along with Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee (68) and England's Chris Wood (67).

The 31-year-old Fisher said he was inspired by his return to the Twenty Ten Course, where he was a part of Europe's 2010 Ryder Cup victory over the United States.

"Hopefully this will be the start of a big summer for me," said Fisher, who hasn’t had a single top-five finish for almost 18 months and has dropped 130 places in the world rankings since the Ryder Cup. "I guess it's the dreaded curse of the comedown from the Ryder Cup. You have such high expectations and it's been disappointing."

He now stands 157th in the world, is not in the field for the upcoming U.S. 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," he explained. "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," he added. "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," he said. "The Ryder Cup was a great experience -- I played really well and really enjoyed it."

Fisher's round actually began with a bogey, 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.

Slattery, who is U.S. 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," he 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," he added. "I felt I knew everything -- as golfers do. We're quite stubborn and selfish."

Zanotti would have been alongside him but for three-putting his last green.

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-7 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 9-over aggregate.

Paul Lawrie, second in the Ryder Cup standings after his runner-up finish in the BMW PGA Championship last Sunday, made it through on 1 over thanks to a 69, and 2010 Captain Colin Montgomerie survived as well at 4 over.

Miguel Angel Jimenez squeezed through right on the limit of 5 over, but there will not be a single Welshman in the closing 36 holes. Eight teed off, eight missed the cut.

The Duke of Roxburghe's son Ted Innes-Ker lasted only two days as well. He was given a special invitation by the sponsors, but had rounds of 86 and 78.