Route 66 pays off for halfway leader Fisher

TREVOR FISHER JUNIOR held the lead at the halfway stage of the Africa Open after matching his opening-day effort with another 66 in East London to head into the weekend on 14-under-par.

The South African, who was one of five players to share top spot after the opening round at the co-sanctioned European and Sunshine Tour event, was in command from the start of the day after beginning with an eagle and a birdie on his first two holes.

His closest challenge came from fellow overnight leader Patrik Sjoland as the Swede mixed an impressive eight birdies and an eagle with one double bogey and two bogeys, while another home favourite, Thomas Aiken, dropped no shots on his way to a 67, to sit 12 under overall.

Keith Horne, on the same score as his fellow countryman, was the highest-placed player amongst the afternoon starters, one shot ahead of a trio of players on 10 under, including Deane Pappas, Vaughan Bradford and Englishman Justin Walters.

Pre-tournament favourites Charl Schwartzel, James Kingston and Richard Sterne, the highest ranked players in the field at 66, 83 and 94 respectively, were well placed for a weekend charge after rounds of 70, 69 and 71 to move into a tie for eighth on nine under.

Ireland’s Darren Clarke finished two shots further back on seven under after following up his 69 yesterday with a 70 today, but England’s Nick Dougherty missed the cut after ending his two rounds three over par.

Meanwhile, Europe captain Colin Montgomerie was relieved not to be facing a greater deficit after Asia claimed a 2 ½-1 ½ lead in the opening round foursomes at the Royal Trophy.

The hosts are aiming to stage a successful title defence after winning 10-6 last year and started well, and looked at one stage like finishing the day with a 3-1 lead.

But a half point from Soren Kjeldsen and Peter Hanson kept the deficit down heading into today’s fourballs.

“I think if you ask my players how they played most of them would not have been happy with their performance, so in that sense we escaped a bit,” said Montgomerie.

Japanese duo Ryo Ishikawa and Koumei Oda highlighted Asia’s performance as they rallied to beat Montgomerie and Pablo Martin of Spain 3&2 in the first match.

The European pair were two up through three holes but contrived to three-putt the third from seven feet before Ishikawa sank a birdie on the next hole to level.

Ishikawa and Oda then picked up birdies on the seventh and eighth to move into a two-hole lead from which Montgomerie and Martin never recovered.

Europe’s only win of the day came when Robert Karlsson and Alexander Noren beat Charlie Wi and Liang Wen-chong 4&2.

The match between Kjeldsen and Hanson and Indian duo Jeev Milkha Singh and Gaganjeet Bhullar ended all square while Thai duo Prayad Marksaeng and Thongchai Jaidee wrapped up a 3&1 win over England’s Simon Dyson and Swede Henrik Stenson.

Montgomerie has opted to tinker slightly with his team for today with the 46-year-old partnering England’s Simon Dyson in the opening match against Singh and Bhullar while Martin and Stenson will anchor Europe’s bid to overturn the one-point deficit, facing Marksaeng and Jaidee in the final match.

Hanson and Kjeldsen tackle Wi and Liang in the second match while Karlsson and Noren then play against Ishikawa and Oda.

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