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Fisher extends lead in Tshwane Open

Englishman Ross Fisher stretched his lead to five strokes as he fired a five-under-par 67 in the third round of the European Tour/Sunshine Tour co-sanctioned Tshwane Open at the Els Club Copperleaf on Saturday.

Fisher had started the penultimate day with just a one-shot lead over Morten Orum Madsen, and two ahead of Simon Dyson and Carlos del Moral, but the 2010 Ryder Cup player birdied the sixth, seventh and ninth holes to reach the turn in 33 and then collected two more birdies on the back nine as he took firm control of the R22.3 million tournament.

The 33-year-old will go into the final round on 18-under-par, with his nearest challengers being Northern Irishman Michael Hoey on 13-under, Dyson and Del Moral on 12-under and seven golfers, including South Africans Merrick Bremner, Hennie Otto, Danie van Tonder, Trevor Fisher Junior and Darren Fichardt on 11-under.

On a wet, miserable day, no one was really able to make a move on Fisher, with compatriot Robert Rock’s seven-under-par 65 the best round of the day and that moved him into a tie for 12th on 10-under.

Madsen, who won the South African Open in Johannesburg in November, unravelled badly and his round was like a disaster movie, finishing with three successive bogeys to leave him on nine-under for the tournament, nine strokes behind Fisher, and in a tie for 15th.

Fisher, who began his third round with two bogeys in his first five holes, said his aim in the final round would be to produce birdies and thereby eliminate the threat of the sort of exciting come-from-behind charge the promoters of the tournament would love.

“Five shots is a nice lead, but I expect good scores behind me in the final round, especially if the weather is hot and sunny. I’ll play aggressively and make as many birdies as possible. In that way I’ll put heat on the others and they’ll have to shoot something silly to catch me,” Fisher said after his third-successive sub-68 round.

Fisher, a prodigious driver of the ball, has overcome the longest course in European Tour history with his excellence off the tee and some brilliant long-iron play, hitting 86% of the greens in regulation.

Hoey managed to maintain the momentum from his second round, in which he collected seven successive birdies on the back nine, to shoot a 69 on Friday and climb even further up the leaderboard.

“I had a couple of sloppy swings and misjudgements, but it’s easier to accept those when you’re putting well and scoring well,” Hoey said after his round that included three bogeys and six birdies.

Both Dyson and Del Moral struggled to get going on Saturday, shooting one-under-par 71s, and Fisher is clearly going to be extremely hard to beat in the final round.

“I’m playing as good as ever, similar to when I contended in the majors, and my goal is to get back into the top 50 in the world – I feel I belong there.

“To win here would be a massive confidence boost and a step in the right direction,” Fisher said.

– Sapa

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