Fisher, Sterne lead the way in Joburg
A swashbuckling nine-under par round of 62 at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club’s West Course on Friday catapulted Trevor Fisher Jnr to 15-under and a share of the lead at the midway point of the Joburg Open with first-round co-leader Richard Sterne, who himself fired a seven-under round of 65 at the East Course.
Fisher and Sterne sit at the summit of a leaderboard littered with South African stars, as George Coetzee (64) sits three strokes adrift in sole possession of third place, while Charl Schwartzel (65) and Keith Horne (66) share fourth place on 10-under with Chile’s Felipe Aguilar (66).
Fisher, who on Tuesday was honoured with the Sunshine Tour Players’ Player of the Year and Writers’ Player of the Year awards for 2012, began his round with an electrifying eagle at the par-five second hole. Birdies on the third and ninth holes guided him to an outward nine of 32, before five red numbers on the inward stretch saw him follow it up with a 30, and his two round score of 128 is a record at the Joburg Open.
“It was a great day out there. Everything just happened for me and I sank the putts I needed to sink. I was happy and patient with myself – walked slow and did everything slow – and it was just a good day,” Fisher told a media room after his round.
“It’s nice to have the record. But I’m going to focus on my game and not worry about what everyone else is doing. It’s just a number – I’ve got to go out there and still try to make birdies. If I can make my lead 15 shots I’ll try to do it, I’m not going to hold back now.
“I want to make birdies and I’ve set myself a number for the week, and if I can get to that I’ll be chuffed. If it’s good enough for us at the end of the week then it’ll be great.”
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Fisher enjoyed the two-round record on his own for just three hours though. Sterne, who on Thursday blew the West Course away with an eight-under round of 63, continued his rich vein of form with the putter onto the East Course, and his seven birdies were enough to sign for a 65 – a second successive bogey-free round.
“It’s a nice position to be in. It’s always nice to play at home and I always enjoy these types of golf courses,” Sterne said. “I played well on the front nine. I just made two pars on the par-fives, which doesn’t help. But I played well on the par-fours. I was quite conservative today, and on this golf course you have to be fairly conservative at the right time and take it on when you can. I did the right things, but it didn’t feel great out there. I putted well and that’s what helps with the scoring.”
Sterne narrowly missed out on a victory at last week’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic, and, although it marked a return to form after a debilitating back injury, the 31-year-old is anxious to end a victory drought in excess of three years this week.
“You would like to stay up there and give yourself a chance come Sunday, but it’s not so easy being up there from day one. You’ve got to learn to pull things through, and hopefully I can. It’s not going to be easy – the guys that are five or six back can catch us as well if they shoot a low round tomorrow.
“You’ve got guys there who’ve won a few tournaments and obviously Charl (Schwartzel) is there. And George Coetzee - he hasn’t won, but he’s due. It’s a long way from over – we’re only halfway,” Sterne concluded.
Sterne was paired with Coetzee on the day, and the 2008 Joburg Open champion had warm words for his fellow Pretorian.
“George is playing really well – putting nicely and hitting it well. He’s going to be a contender going into the weekend. George is a big teddy bear really, so it was just fun out there today,” he joked.
A first European Tour win continues to elude the burly Coetzee despite 21 top-10 finishes and seven in the top-three. But eight birdies on a blemish-free scorecard have put him right in contention going into the weekend, and he admitted that he fed off the performance of his playing-partner Sterne.
“I didn’t feel as comfortable as I have the last few days. I just made a couple of nice putts on the first couple of holes and that got me good momentum. And Richard making birdie on every other hole made me want to make another birdie on the next hole, so we pulled each other along pretty well,” he noted.
Coetzee said of his chances of victory: “I don’t even think about those things. Well, I try not to. Every now and then it will pop up and you have to get back into the zone, into the now. I try not to think about it and I tell myself that I want to finish top-10 instead, and that normally calms me down. I can achieve that in the position I am in at the moment.
“If the win comes I’ll be happy, but if it doesn’t, as long as I’m playing well, I’ll still be happy.”