Fisher survives Hoey charge at Tshwane Open
 Michael Hoey  hits his approach to the fourth, setting up an eagle three. Picture: David Lloyd /  www.golffile.ie

Michael Hoey  hits his approach to the fourth, setting up an eagle three. Picture: David Lloyd / www.golffile.ie

Michael Hoey frightened the life out of eventual champion Ross Fisher before clinching the first runner up finish of his European Tour career in the €1.5 million Tshwane Open.

The Northern Ireland star was seeking his sixth tour win at The Els Club Copperleaf but after reducing the 2010 Irish Open winner’s five shot overnight lead to just one stroke with seven holes to go, he found water at the 12th and double bogeyed en route to a 68 that left him three behind on 17-under with South Africa’s Danie Van Toder.

Hoey had the consolation of a cheque for €138,150 which moved him up to 25th in the Race to Dubai with earnings this year of €223,331.

And it was also an excellent week for Mount Juliet touring professional Kevin Phelan as he closed with a bogey free 70 to finish joint sixth on 13-under.

The Waterford rookie earned €44,750 for his best ever finish and is now 92nd in the Race to Dubai with €60,050.

Fisher was disappointed to bogey the 18th but happy that his 70 was enough for a three-shot win and his first since his Irish Open triumph in Killarney in 2010.

“I would have liked to have had all four rounds in the 60s,” he said. “But I’m really pleased to be getting the trophy.”

He started well enough, making birdie on the opening hole, but a bogey on three saw Hoey edge closer. 

And when the Northern Irishman eagled the longest hole in European Tour history – the 626-metre (685-yard) fourth – the game was on.

“Mike really started to push me,” said Fisher. “I felt like I was giving myself chances, but I couldn’t buy a putt. Then I made a very good birdie on seven, and a good par on nine. So I knew I had a few shots to spare going into the back nine which has been very good to me this week.”

 Kevin Phelan picked up a nice cheque in South Africa. Picture: David Lloyd /  www.golffile.ie

Kevin Phelan picked up a nice cheque in South Africa. Picture: David Lloyd / www.golffile.ie

It had been equally good to Hoey – more so, perhaps, after he made seven birdies in a row there during his second round – and a birdie-four on the 11th for him brought him within one shot of Fisher.

“The big thing for me was seeing Mike hit it in the water on 12,” said Fisher. “That’s when I went back to three shots ahead.

“I knew there was still a lot of golf to be played. I hit some good shots coming in, and the biggest moment was 15. I hit a really good drive there and flushed a hybrid in. I knew the putt for eagle was going to break a little left to right, and to see it drop and have a four-shot lead with three to play, I knew I could kind of coast home.”

Back inside the world’s top 65, Fisher added: "I'm thrilled to get over the line. It was a testing day with the weather conditions and playing with Mike he put up a great challenge for me.

"I set a target of trying to go out there and shoot in the 60s and almost managed to do it. I had a little mishap on the last but I'm just glad to be standing here talking to you as champion.

“It’s been coming for some time, but the putting has just let me down a bit. This week I holed more putts than I have for a very long time. I’m excited for the rest of the year."

 Ross Fisher with the Tshwane Open trophy. Picture: David Lloyd /  www.golffile.ie

Ross Fisher with the Tshwane Open trophy. Picture: David Lloyd / www.golffile.ie

Fisher admitted his eagle on the 15th had helped to settle any potential nerves.

"It's been pretty good to me this week (the 15th hole)," he said. "There have been a couple of eagles, but that was a big putt there.”

Hoey matched Fisher’s birdie at the first before he hit a magnificent three-wood to 15 feet at the fourth and holed the putt.

Fisher went three in front when he holed from 20 feet at the seventh and Hoey missed his birdie effort from half that distance.

However, the roles were reversed at the next as 35 year old Hoey reached the green at the par five in two and birdied, with Fisher having to settle for par after his pitched third shot finished 20 feet short of the pin.

Hoey then closed the gap to just one shot with a birdie from 30 feet at the 11th, before the tide turned decisively at the next in favour of the world No 82.

Hoey found lake beside the green and ran up a costly six that ultimately cost him the title.

Shane Lowry closed with a disappointing, three over 75 to finish tied for 39th on four over.

Final scores

268 R Fisher (Eng) 66 65 67 70,

271 D Van Tonder  (RSA) 66 70 69 66, M Hoey  (Nir) 69 65 69 68,

272 C Del Moral (Esp) 68 65 71 68,

273 H Otto (RSA) 71 65 69 68,

275 C Wood  (Eng) 67 68 72 68, K Phelan (Irl) 68 69 68 70, D Fichardt (RSA) 66 68 71 70,

276 M Bremner (RSA) 69 69 67 71,

277 E Molinari  (Ita) 70 65 70 72, S Dyson  (Eng) 65 68 71 73, T Fisher Jnr (RSA) 65 69 71 72,

278 M Madsen  (Den) 67 65 75 71,

279 R Rock (Eng) 70 71 65 73,

280 K Horne (RSA) 74 67 67 72, D Howell (Eng) 69 69 74 68, O Bekker (RSA) 70 67 69 74, J Roos (RSA) 69 65 72 74, M Baldwin (Eng) 72 69 68 71, S Kapur (Ind) 67 74 70 69,

281 M Korhonen (Fin) 70 68 70 73, P Waring  (Eng) 70 70 68 73, L Bjerregaard  (Den) 67 71 71 72,

282 J Hugo  (RSA) 68 68 76 70, T Aiken (RSA) 69 71 70 72, R De Smidt (RSA) 69 71 69 73, O Fisher  (Eng) 73 68 69 72, K Broberg (Swe) 67 74 71 70,

283 G Bourdy (Fra) 72 69 73 69, J Kamte (RSA) 72 69 67 75, C Mowat (RSA) 72 69 71 71, J Kingston (RSA) 71 69 70 73, D Brooks (Eng) 72 67 72 72, H Porteous (RSA) 70 70 69 74, J Dantorp (Swe) 70 69 69 75, H Bruiners (RSA) 69 70 69 75, N Elvira  (Esp) 71 67 72 73, M Warren (Sco) 73 68 71 71,

284 J Harding  (RSA) 70 67 72 75, S Kjeldsen (Den) 72 69 71 72, J Ahlers (RSA) 71 66 72 75, J Van Zyl (RSA) 71 70 70 73, A Haindl (RSA) 72 68 70 74, R Cairns (Zim) 70 69 74 71, S Lowry  (Irl) 68 71 70 75,

285 T Hatton (Eng) 70 69 70 76, A Sullivan (Eng) 69 69 78 69, J Harvey (RSA) 66 72 74 73, C Du Plessis (RSA) 71 69 73 72,

286 G Coetzee (RSA) 70 70 71 75, M Kieffer (Ger) 68 70 71 77, E Van Rooyen (RSA) 66 72 74 74, T Ferreira  (RSA) 72 69 75 70, G Bhullar (Ind) 70 65 74 77,

287 A Wall (Eng) 68 71 76 72, R Santos  (Por) 68 71 71 77, J Morrison  (Eng) 69 70 72 76, V Groenewald (RSA) 71 68 73 75,

288 D Huizing (Ned) 68 71 70 79, T Van Der Walt (RSA) 69 71 74 74,

289 T Mordt  (RSA) 70 71 74 74, D McGuigan (Sco) 71 70 75 73,

290 W Abery (RSA) 71 70 73 76, J Doherty  (Sco) 69 71 75 75, L De Jager  (RSA) 71 69 75 75,

291 A Cañizares  (Esp) 70 71 75 75, S Hansen (Den) 70 70 76 75,

293 M Jonzon (Swe) 72 69 76 76.