Fisher takes lead in Dubai, Poulter 2 back

Ross Fisher during Round 3 of the Irish Open.

Ross Fisher during Round 3 of the Irish Open.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Ross Fisher led an English run up a star-studded leaderboard Friday at the Dubai World Championship, matching a course record 8-under 64 to tie Ian Poulter at 9 under for the second-round lead.

England’s Lee Westwood tightened his grip on the No. 1 ranking by moving into third with a 5-under 69 at the European Tour’s season-ending, $7.5 million tournament in Dubai. He stood at 8 under, one shot ahead of European money leader and third-ranked Martin Kaymer, who could overtake Westwood only with a top-two finish and the Englishman falling out of the top 27.

Kaymer, though, has all but ended the battle for the Order of Merit after he finished eight shots ahead of his only challenger, Graeme McDowell, who had another frustrating day to finish with a 1-over 73 and is tied for 42nd at 1 over for the tournament.

Fisher, who was tied for seventh after the first round, surged into the lead with eight birdies on his way to his stellar 64, including a string of three in a row on the back nine and one on the 18th to close out the round.

“You know, just a very good day. I played pretty flawless golf,” Fisher said.

“Drove the ball lovely. Didn’t miss many fairways, and I don’t know how many greens I missed, if I did at all,” he added. “Just feel a lot more comfortable this year on the greens. I feel like I’m reading them a lot better and I’ve got my line and pace very well. Obviously today’s 64 kind of proved that.”

Poulter, who is coming off a victory at last week’s Hong Kong Open, said he felt that momentum carried into this week and showed up especially on the greens, where he made clutch birdie puts on the 15th and 17th holes – the last one putting him into a tie for the lead.

“Yeah, very, very pleased. Obviously carrying some form from last week, driving the ball in the fairway an awful lot,” Poulter said. “I think I missed one fairway today by a couple of inches. That was on the last hole. So I’m giving myself plenty of chances and I’m not really making any mistakes and that’s obviously key to shooting a decent score.”

Poulter and his playing partner, Westwood, were neck and neck for most of the day, until Westwood chunked a wedge on the edge of the green at the 14th that led to a bogey and then missed a birdie putt on the next hole.

Westwood said he “played quite nicely” but conceded he was still showing signs of rust from the lengthy layoff because of a leg injury.

“Made a couple of mistakes out there, probably through not having played a lot recently,” he said.

In the Race to Dubai, Kaymer can claim the money title and a $1.5 million bonus by finishing higher than McDowell.

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