Fisher slips as Wood, Viilegas go clear

Chris Wood and Camilo Villegas stormed in front as Ross Fisher’s birthday hopes plummeted in Dubai today.

Chris Wood and Camilo Villegas stormed in front as Ross Fisher’s birthday hopes plummeted in Dubai this Thursday morning

The recently crowned Volvo World Match play champion’s hopes of earning the jackpot at the Dubai World Championship on his 29th birthday on Sunday took a nose dive the moment he teed off at the picturesque Earth course today – and he had not yet recovered at the turn.

At one-over after nine he was seven shots behind early starters Wood and Villegas who had stormed home over the second longest course in European Tour history with 6-under 66s .

Making an impactful return after tearing ankle ligaments a month ago, the lanky 21-year-old Englishman roared past early leaders in the clubhouse Liang Wen-chong of China and Thomas Aiken of South Africa to take a two shot lead after turning in 34 and then posting a hat-trick of birdies from the 15th and finally completing his 66 by picking up a further shot on the 620 yard par five 18th.

Villegas, who plays most of his golf on the US PGA Tour, made his 66 with back-to-back birdies on 1 and 2 and 16 and 17 with single birdies thrown in on each nine in a faultless round.

The Colombian star won in the Fedex play-offs and will clearly be a major threat in an all-powerful field, but for now Fisher, who needs to finish first or second to have a chance of finishing the season as Europe’s Number One, is looking out of it.

Fisher was over €435,000 behind money list leader Rory McIlroy, who saved par from a fairway bunker on the first and then birdied the second with a seven-foot putt to be 1-under after three.

The 58-strong field teed off in reverse Race to Dubai order, which meant 20 year old McIlroy, trying to become the youngest Order of Merit winner since Seve Ballesteros in 1976, was paired with his closest challenger Lee Westwood.

Westwood, seeking to regain the crown he held in 2000, parred the three two holes, as did German Martin Kaymer playing alongside Fisher.

McIlroy will take the title regardless of how he plays if Westwood finishes outside the top seven, Kaymer the top four and Fisher the top two.

Speaking after his round, Wood said: “That’s the first time I’ve played 18 holes since the injury. I was on crutches for two and a half weeks, but it’s recovered well.

“The ankle started aching on the 15th tee and I thought I’ll take one under for the closing stretch, but I managed to birdie every one.”

The stretch is known as the “Golden Mile” and designer Greg Norman said he expected it to be “one of the most challenging and exciting miles of golf in terms of risk and reward.”

Wood certainly got the reward, pitching to six feet on the 15th, making eight-footers on the next two and then hitting his approach to six feet at the 620 yard last.

“If you give yourself the chances, you’re definitely going to make some birdies,” Wood added.

“A good finish can turn your day around like I did today and obviously I’ve turned it into a really good score.”score.”