By Mark Lamport-Stokes
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - With his world ranking having plummeted out of the top 100 from a career-high 17th, Britain's Ross Fisher felt the timing was right for him to try his hand on the PGA Tour.
So far, so good. The tall Englishman secured his playing privileges on the U.S. circuit for this season by tying for second in the tour's qualifying school and has made an encouraging start to his 2013 campaign.
Fisher tied for 56th at last week's Humana Challenge, rebounding from an opening 74 with three successive scores in the sixties, and surged into contention for the Farmers Insurance Open on Thursday with a sizzling six-under-par 66.
"I'm very happy," a beaming Fisher told Reuters after a seven-birdie display on the North course at Torrey Pines left him just one stroke behind co-leaders KJ Choi of South Korea and American Brandt Snedeker.
"We got very lucky with the weather and I kind of took advantage of that," he said, after a damp and overcast morning gave way to a sunny afternoon at the venue which hugs the bluffs above the Pacific Ocean.
"I played solid. I bogeyed my second hole, number 11, and then from then on in it was pretty steady golf. So, for a first day's work, six under, I am really pleased."
Fisher, who won his fourth European Tour title at the 3 Irish Open in 2010 to clinch a debut spot on the European Ryder Cup team, has set his sights on returning to the world's top 50 by the end of this year.
"That's where I feel I belong, and I've been there before," said the Englishman who is now ranked 102nd. "I got to 17 in the world so I know I can get there. It's just hard work, dedication and a bit of luck along the way.
"Hopefully this year I will just go out there and do what I have been doing all of my career, get out there, play golf and enjoy it."
Three years ago, Fisher bought a house at Lake Nona in Florida and, with that now established as his U.S. base, he plans to divide his time this season between the PGA Tour and the European circuit.
"I will probably play my minimum number of 15 events over here but it depends how the season goes," he said. "Obviously the FedExCup is a big thing over here so if I start well and get myself right up in the rankings I may decide to play more.
"But at the same time, I want to retain my European status and play all my events in Europe as well. It's going to be tough to play both but I'm certainly going to give it a go this year and see how I get on."
Fisher has no shortage of players to seek out for scheduling advice, among them compatriots Ian Poulter and Justin Rose who were his team mates at the 2010 Ryder Cup.
"I'll definitely be speaking to those guys, seeing how they are going to pan their schedule out but their world rankings, with Poults (13th) and Rosie (fourth), are higher than mine," Fisher said.
"They get into all the WGCs (World Golf Championships) and majors and that's what I am going to strive to achieve, to climb up those world rankings so I can get into those tournaments."
Many golf fans know Fisher's name well from 2009 when he achieved the rare feat of leading in all four of the majors at some point but he readily accepts he has lost ground since then.
"My career has not kicked on as I would have liked from 2009 but last year I switched equipment from Titleist to Nike so I had a bit of adjusting to do," he explained.
"It took me longer than I'd have hoped but there were some really good signs in the summer months in Europe, having four top-10s with a second place and then I finished off the season really strong. I'm looking forward to big things in 2013."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)