Englishman Ross Fisher fired a six-under 65 in the first round of the Portugal Masters on Thursday and promptly set his sights on qualifying for another Ryder Cup team after missing out on this year’s event.
The 31-year-old Englishman, who took a joint one-shot lead in Vilamoura with Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher on Thursday, helped Europe win at Celtic Manor in 2010, but was reduced to being a spectator for last month’s miraculous comeback win at Medinah.
Despite watching Europe reel in a four-point deficit to beat the US 14.5-13.5 from his sofa, he said the team’s unexpected success had been a huge moment for him.
“If that doesn’t inspire me and all of these other guys to get in the Ryder Cup then you shouldn’t be playing the game of golf,” Fisher told the European Tour’s Web site.
Ascot-born Fisher said he was more nervous watching than he was while making his debut at the biennial team event two years ago.
“I’ve experienced it in Wales and it’s something that I think — Rory [McIlroy] said it once — you’ve played in one, you never want to miss another one,” Fisher said of his twice-major winning former teammate, now the world No. 1.
“So that did spur me on to get out and work hard. I think 17th in the world was my best, I’m not there now but I’m working hard and I’m improving, so one step at a time and we’ll be back hopefully soon enough,” he said.
Fisher, currently ranked 140, had not won for more than two years before he secured a berth on Colin Montgomerie’s 2010 team in Wales and scored two points from four in Europe’s nail-biting one-point triumph.
Gallacher, 37-year-old nephew of former Ryder Cup captain, Bernard Gallacher, reflected: “There’s not much rough and the greens are unbelievably good, but when the wind got up it was pretty tough.”
Gallacher’s fellow Scot George Murray shot a 66 to lie third
Swedish pair Fredrik Andersson Hed and Christian Nilsson, Shane Lowry of Ireland, South Africa’s Jbe Kruger and Jamie Donaldson of Wales were tied for fourth at four-under.
Europe’s captain in Chicago, Spain’s Jose Maria Olazabal, played with two of his winning team members in Germany’s Martin Kaymer (69) and Francesco Molinari (71) of Italy, but struggled to a modest 75 to be 10 shots off the pace.
Olazabal found trouble at the 18th, his ninth hole, hooking into the lake for a triple-bogey seven.
Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke, one of the favorites to succeed Olazabal at the 2014 Ryder Cup in Gleneagles, carded a 70.
The other front runner for the captain’s job, Ireland’s Paul McGinley, withdrew before he was able to hit a ball in anger with a sore back.
Additional reporting by staff writer