Tait: Fisher still dreams of '12 Ryder Cup
Ross Fisher lost his way on the road to success. He’s hoping victory at the spot of his greatest experience in golf can get him back on track.
This week’s Wales Open at Celtic Manor, where Fisher helped Europe win the 2010 Ryder Cup, can help the Englishman get back to where many feel he belongs – among the world’s elite.
English golf has been on a high for the last few years. Luke Donald is the World No. 1. Lee Westwood is No. 3. Justin Rose is sixth. Ian Poulter occupies 28th place and Simon Dyson 44th.
Conspicuous by his absence from that elite company is Fisher. Yet it wasn’t too long ago that Fisher seemed the Englishman most likely to succeed.
Fisher - who is one shot off the lead after the third round at the Wales Open - has had his chances to win at least two major championships. He might have tasted double-major glory in 2009.
The 31-year-old finished fifth in the U.S. Open at Bethpage State Park three years ago. He might have won if he’d converted more short putts.
He might also have lifted the old Claret Jug a month later. Fisher was in contention for the 2009 Open Championship at Turnberry until a quadruple-bogey on the 5th hole in the final round. He finished 13th, four shots outside a playoff.
The long hitter won four European Tour events in a stretch between 2007 and 2010. Then he made his Ryder Cup debut, the first of supposedly many appearances in the biennial match.
Fast forward two years and Fisher is a shadow of the man he was then. He reached No. 17 in the Official World Golf Ranking in November 2009. He is currently 157th. He hasn’t qualified to play in the U.S. Open, the Open Championship or PGA Championship this year. He hasn’t finished inside the top five in a year and a half.
That’s why this week’s Wales Open is so important.
“Hopefully this will be the start of a big summer for me,” Fisher said.
“I guess it’s the dreaded curse of the comedown from the Ryder Cup. You have such high expectations and it’s been disappointing.”
Fisher finished 52nd on last year’s European money list, his worst European season since his rookie 2006 season when he placed 66th.
“I didn’t have a disastrous year last season,” Fisher said. “I felt as if I played about the same as I did the previous year, but just didn’t get the rewards. Everyone talks about the fine line that exists out here, and I think I went through that last year.
“It’s just a question of being a little more patient this year. If I’d finished, say, outside the top 100 last year then I might have been worried during the off season, but my game wasn’t too far way.”
He has experienced many changes in his life over the last few years. He and his wife Joanne now have two young children. Moreover, Fisher grew up at Wentworth Golf Club but has since left the club that played such an important part in his development. He changed equipment this year, moving to Nike from Titleist.
“I just felt the time was right. It’s probably taken me longer to adjust than I would have liked,” he said about the equipment change.
Fisher entered this season with three simple goals: Win a tournament, get back inside the world top 50 and make the European Ryder Cup team. Not surprisingly, that last goal comes top of the list.
“Celtic Manor was an amazing experience, probably my best in golf. To be part of a wining team was just an unbelievable feeling and I don’t want to miss another Ryder Cup. Making this year’s team is high on my list.”
With 12 weeks to go, the Ryder Cup looks like a pipe dream. Fisher is 72nd on the European points table with 12 weeks to go.
“It's always nice to come back to a good hunting ground.”
Will it provide the grounding for Fisher’s return to the upper echelons of world golf? That’s one of the more important questions in this week’s Wales Open.