Fisher’s year ‘made’ by Spanish win

New World Match Play champion Ross Fisher should have had no trouble falling to sleep as he flew to Shanghai on Monday.

New World Match Play champion Ross Fisher should have had no trouble falling to sleep as he flew to Shanghai on Monday.
It took Fisher a total of 126 holes over four days to win the massive first prize of just over £675,000 in Spain on Sunday – but his joy at grabbing the prestigious title was not because of the money.
The 28-year-old from Wentworth, who beat American Anthony Kim 4&3 in Sunday’s 36-hole final, had gone nearly 15 months without a victory.
This year alone he led in the early stages of The Masters and US PGA, let slip a good chance to win the US Open and topped the leaderboard with only 14 holes to play in The Open.
Now he has guaranteed that his 2009 will not be remembered primarily for the quadruple bogey eight at Turnberry that ended his hopes of a first major crown.
And the season might bring a lot more yet.
If he wins this week’s HSBC Champions – he lost in a play-off to Phil Mickelson two years ago after taking seven on the final hole – he could go top of the European Order of Merit with only two more weeks remaining.
He is also up to a career-best 17th in the world and his chances of a first Ryder Cup appearance have been boosted not only because he is up from 107th to fifth in the points race, but also because he has proved himself a match play marvel.
In February Fisher reached the semi-finals of the World Golf Championship version in Arizona before losing to Paul Casey.
This past week the new group format allowed him to lose his second game to Lee Westwood, but take the title with wins over Camilo Villegas, Jeev Milkha Singh, Masters champion Angel Cabrera and then Kim.
Fisher will take the trophy back to his home club Wentworth – the venue, of course, for Europe’s Match Play tournament right through from its inauguration in 1964 until this move to the Costa del Sol under new sponsors Volvo.
“I’m absolutely ecstatic,” he said. “It’s been a long, gruelling week, but obviously very worthwhile.
“This course was very physically demanding and I don’t think I am the fittest of blokes out here. I know I need to work a lot more in the gym.
“The only thing that’s been missing this year was a win. I feel I’ve been very consistent and to be the leading guy in the majors (in terms of shots taken) shows my golf has been very good.
“I could have quite easily won three majors if things would have gone my way. But you know, that’s golf. Sometimes they go your way and sometimes they don’t.
“If it was meant to be, then it would have happened. But obviously things happen for a reason and I’m a great believer in that.”
The new-look Match Play lacked the atmosphere generated by the traditional Wentworth crowds, but it worked in other ways.
Round-robin games over the first two days, with the 16-strong field divided into four lots of four, was good for the players in that it gave them the chance to recover from one bad match and good for the fans who came on the Friday and got to see everybody playing again rather just half of them.
It is easily possible to take that a stage further in future with the top two in each group progressing to quarter-finals rather than only the winners going into 36-hole semis.
And maybe three points for a win rather than two should also be considered. The system as it is means that someone winning two out of three group games can lose out to someone winning only one, but halving the other two.
Playing all group matches to the 18th added an extra dimension and produced some exciting finishes. The two finalists can bear witness to that.
Fisher was not sure of his last four place when he almost went out of bounds on the last hole against Jeev Milkha Singh. Only then did he discover that up ahead Villegas had not achieved the win over Westwood he needed.
Kim, meanwhile, lost to Scott Strange, but then had to win the last hole to stop the Australian progressing on “holes up” – and did with a brilliant three-wood to four feet.
Yet only those who understood how the groups worked would have known that and there must have been many in the crowd who had no idea of the significance.
Finca Cortesin, set to play hosts for at least the next two years, was a spectacular venue, but hardly user-friendly for fans.
And there will be those who question whether it is right to give the players so many buggy rides because of either the distances from greens to tees or the inclines involved.
“Walking is part of golf,” said Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie. Not that he would have liked to walk this course – not even in training for the West Highland Way he was doing on Monday for charity.