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Sunday, 21 August 2011
Oliver Fisher  (Getty Images)
Oliver Fisher (Getty Images)
Oliver Fisher completed a remarkable change of fortunes by holding off a succession of challengers to capture the Czech Open.

Six years after becoming the youngest Walker Cup player in history, the 22 year old Englishman carded a closing 69 to finish 13 under par at Prosper Golf Resort and win by two shots.

The feat was all the more impressive considering Fisher came into the week 224th in The Race to Dubai, and having missed 20 of his first 21 cuts this season, before finishing 35th in Sweden and 45th in Ireland last month to indicate some improvement.

He said: “Getting your first win is obviously special, but especially as I’ve struggled so far this season. My form has been horrific, but golf’s a funny game. I went through a lot of different emotions out there today. I hit it well on the range this morning, so that gave me confidence. I played the front nine really well, then got a bit unlucky on the tenth. After that, the wheels started to fall off a little bit.

“I saw Mika Lundberg was on 12 under coming down the 14th, and 15 is a tricky par three with lots of water. So all sorts of things were going through my head at that stage. I hit the green, but then three-putted. So to sink birdie putts on 16 and 17 was huge, and then I played the 18th very well.

“I really enjoyed it out there today, and I’ve had a lot of fun this week. I’ve played well since Sweden, and played better every week since. I did a lot of good work back home in the two weeks before this event, and it’s paid off. Hopefully this is the start of big things for me.”

Starting the day level with Scot Steven O’Hara, Fisher was far from having things his own way as first Gary Boyd and then Mikael Lundberg made late runs for the €250,000 first prize.

Playing in glorious sunshine, the last pair out never looked troubled but produced few fireworks as both parred the first six holes, allowing last year’s runner-up Boyd to briefly join them in a share of the lead.

But Fisher, having made his first gain of the day at the seventh from 20 feet, struck approaches within five feet at the next two to reach 13 under par.

Boyd scrambled an unlikely birdie from the rough at the ninth by running a nine iron to 15 feet to also turn in 33 and be two behind on 11 under.

O’Hara never deviated from par in an outward 36, before the leading trio all found trouble at the par five tenth.

Crucially, Fisher – who hit a telegraph pole with his second shot – was the only one to salvage par.

Swede Lundberg, the halfway leader, took up the chase with four birdies in eight holes from the seventh.

Lundberg – who lost his card last year and has been struggling to make an impact on the Challenge Tour for much of 2011 – joined Fisher at the top of the leaderboard when he sunk a 15 foot putt at the 15th and held a share of the lead as Fisher came up short of the 11th green and failed to get up and down.

And when Fisher came up short again at the 13th – this time in the bunker – then failed once more to scramble par, Lundberg was on his own in front.

Fisher responded with a brilliant approach at the 14th to a couple of feet and with the resulting birdie tied once more with Lundberg on 12 under, with O’Hara two behind after his first gain of the day on the 13th.

The leaders dropped shots on par threes at almost exactly the same time – Lundberg at the 17th as Fisher three-putted the 15th.

But Fisher responded with a birdie at the par five 16th from 30 feet and Lundberg could only par the last, leaving Fisher needing two closing pars for the title.

He did even better – sinking a 25 footer at the 17th to hold a two shot advantage going down the last which never looked in trouble.

The win moves Fisher inside the top 70 in The Race to Dubai, a remarkable achievement for a player who started the week in serious danger of losing his card. He now has a two-year exemption to take care of that.

Lundberg’s second-place finish should also see him regain playing privileges for next year – he had earned just over €6,000 on The European Tour this year prior to his €166,660 pay day.

He said: “After the season I’ve had, I’m delighted. At the start of the week all I was thinking about was just trying to make the cut and maybe finish in the top 20 or even top 10 if I played really well. So this was way above my expectations. Oli played great, so he deserved to win. I’ve won before, so maybe it was his turn this week! When I won in Russia I holed a lot of putts, and this week I didn’t hole enough. But I’m still very happy.”

Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti signed for a 66 to take third place on nine under, one ahead of Boyd.

O’Hara finished with three straight bogeys to tie for fifth with compatriot David Drysdale, Italy’s Lorenzo Gagli and England’s Steve Webster.


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