OLIVER Fisher holds the second round lead at the Portugal Masters for the second-consecutive year after moving to 12-under par at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course, in Vilamoura.
The 31-year-old Essex pro shared the 36-hole lead in 2018, but holds it outright 12 months on after a second round of 65, which included two eagles and four birdies.
The Englishman made history after carding the European Tour’s first 59 on the same course during last year’s second round and, coincidentally, has reached the score of 12-under again at the same stage in the Algarve.
Fisher, whose sole win came in the Czech Open back in 2011, said: “I played really well the first two rounds last week, the driving was better in France.
“I just got on some bad runs around that course, which can happen. The first two rounds I hit the ball well.
“I didn’t quite hit it as well today, but it was windy,” said Fisher who first came to prominence as an amateur by winning England Golf’s Gold Medal, as a 12-year-old.
“The south-easterly wind makes a few drives tricky. I’m pleased to hit 65, I’m looking forward to the weekend,” added Fisher, who played in the Walker Cup in 2005, in Chicago, breaking Justin Rose’s record as the youngest ever Great Britain and Ireland player in some 80 years.
Fisher, who became the youngest pro to win a card at the European Tour Qualifying School in 2006, is one stroke ahead of South African Justin Walters and South Korea’s Jeunghun Wang, who are both fighting to secure their playing rights for 2020 and avoiding a trip to Q-School next month.
Walters, who famously holed a long putt on the 18th in 2013 to save his card, has sufferred an emotional year after losing his dad.
“It’s hard, but I’m staying in the present,” said Walters, who is coached by West Hove’s Ryan Fenwick. “Hitting the best shot I can and if I don’t pull it off, there’s not much I can do.
“If it works then great, if not it’ll be disappointing. There’s not much more I can do but if by the end of the week I can hold my head up high if I’ve thrown everything I have at it.
“It should be enough, if it’s not we’ll find another place to win a tournament.”
Walters’s compatriots took over the leaderboard during the second round, with seven South Africans sitting inside the top 10.
Brandon Stone holds fourth place on 10-under, while Darren Fichardt and Haydn Porteous share fifth with last year’s runner-up Eddie Pepperell, from Frilford Heath GC.
Stone, who won twice in 2016 and whose last win came in last year’s Scottish Open at Gullane, said: “I’ve been great off the tee all week, and the last few months.
“I felt comfortable with the putter, which has been the missing link for a long time now. I enjoy quick greens and bent greens.
“When we arrived I felt really comfortable. The stroke feels fantastic and I’ve given myself a lot of opportunities – especially early in the round.
“It’s easier when you get birdies to start your round, you give yourself something to fall back on,” added Stone.
“Overall, I’m very happy with where the game is.”
George Coetzee – who had a chance to win in France a week ago, is eighth, while Dean Burmester and first round leader Louis De Jager joined defending champion Tom Lewis, from Hertfordshire’s Welwyn GC, on seven-under in a share of ninth with four others.
The predicted cut-off on the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex has moved to 116 after the cut fell at minus one.
•You can follow live scoring in teh third round of the Portugal Masters by clicking here.