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Fisher not playing like a rookie

Thursday, April 09, 2009

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Ross Fisher is well aware of the Masters Tournament precedent for rookies, but the 28-year-old Englishman has set quite a precedent of his own.

Ross Fisher watches his approach on No. 1 during the first round of the Masters Golf Tournament. (Chris Thelen/Staff)

Fisher was the early leader for most of his first competitive round at Augusta National Golf Club on Thursday before bogeys on the final two holes dropped him to 3-under-par 69.

"To get it to (5 under) was great, but to finish (3 under) is disappointing," Fisher said. "But if you can walk off Augusta National disappointed with a 69, you're obviously doing something right."

Of course, this is the same player who last year won the European Open without ever having seen the course before playing his first round. All he did was open with a course-record 63 and cruise to a seven-stroke win over Sergio Garcia.

"After that I sort of thought to myself maybe I should take off (before) more of them," Fisher joked, adding, "It was a pretty strange week, but it just felt like one of those weeks where everything I did was great. Everything I tried came off."

By comparison, he was already a veteran at Augusta National, having played 63 practice holes there before Thursday. And he was feeling the same way for most of his first round, making birdie on four of the first eight holes before making the turn at 3-under.

Fisher got back to 5-under with birdies on 11 and 16 before closing bogey-bogey to tie playing partner Kevin Sutherland at 3-under.

"He was really aggressive today, I thought," Sutherland said of Fisher. "He's just a really impressive player."

That aggression penalized Fisher on 17, when he fired at the flag after both Sutherland and Prayad Marksaeng dropped conservative shots onto the center of the green that left long birdie putts. Fisher's approach landed in the bunker in front of the green and he was unable to save par when an eight-foot putt rolled just right of the cup.

He missed a six-footer on 18 to slide another stroke back.

Despite faltering at the finish line, Fisher said Thursday's round gave him confidence entering today's second round. After dreaming of competing at the Masters since he was a young child, Fisher found the course suits his game perfectly.

And since he has already won an event without having played the course beforehand, the 30 years since Fuzzy Zoeller became the last Masters rookie to win a green jacket is hardly intimidating.

"I do feel fully equipped and I feel like I know where I'm going," Fisher said. "Yes, there's probably going to be some pins over the next three days where I might be sitting in the wrong spot, but hopefully I can do what I've been doing today and put it in the right spots and get myself a good look at birdies."

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