Saturday, 04 December 2004
England’s Ross Fisher shot into the halfway lead of the European Challenge Tour’s Panasonic Panama Open after a sumptuous second round of six under par 66 at the Coronado Beach and Golf Resort as the temperature rose both on and off the course and left the 24 year old with a one stroke lead over Paraguayan Marco Ruiz.

Fisher has only been in the professional ranks for the past four months, but in that time has already shown his outstanding credentials by finishing in a tie for 15th at the European Tour’s Scandinavian Masters by Carlsberg last August.

He repeated some similarly exceptional form in Panama to take over the halfway lead with a brilliant second round showing that included seven birdies and just one dropped shot.

That was enough to give a one shot advantage over Ruiz, with the 2003 European Tour Qualifying School Finals winner Richard McEvoy joining the Argentine duo of Rafael Gomez and Andres Romero, as well as Italy’s Michele Reale on five under par.

England’s Stuart Davis and Northern Ireland’s former British Amateur Champion, Michael Hoey, both made good moves up the leaderboard – with respective second round scores of 69 and 67 considerably improving their weekend chances and taking them into seventh and eighth position.

But Fisher was the man of the second round, adding his 66 to an opening 71 to get to eight under.

“I played really solid all day and one might think 66 came from holing a bunch of putts, but it was not that way,” said Fisher. “I holed one from 12 feet, another from eight, but the rest of my birdies came from putts of four
or five feet. It was a day of hitting it close to the flag most of the time and making a good percentage of these.

Fisher was ninth after three rounds in Mexico last week and is hoping that he can adapt to the weekend weather and continue his bid to win his first Challenge Tour tournament. “Falling way in Mexico last week was a pity but it is all experience. Now I'm learning how to play in this intense heat and humidity and what to do when you're
literally dripping sweat over your ball on the putting green! I’m very relaxed about the weekend. I'll just try and play the best I can and see what happens."

Ruiz, meanwhile, celebrated his 30th birthday as he moved into second spot on the leaderboard. He said: “My long game is a bit off but my short game is just like it was a few years ago – very, very sharp, and that's a thrill. Now that I'm out of my twenties, maybe I'm getting the benefit of my experience!”

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