Fitzpatrick In 6-Way Tie For Lead At European Masters In Bid To Secure Automatic Ryder Cup Spot

CRANS-MONTANA, Switzerland (AP) — Matt Fitzpatrick began his bid to win a third European Masters title and seal an automatic place in Europe’s Ryder Cup team by shooting 7-under 63 to take a share of the first-round lead on Thursday.

The 2022 U.S. Open champion had a bogey-free round in the picturesque, mountain-top surroundings of Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club and was tied with fellow Englishman Eddie Pepperell, Masahiro Kawamura of Japan, John Axelsen of Denmark, Gavin Green of Malaysia and Nacho Elvira of Spain.

Fitzpatrick requires a finish better than seventh alone to jump above Tommy Fleetwood, who is not playing this week, and take the third and final qualifying place on the World Points List.

That looks well within Fitzpatrick’s grasp given the start he has made. He also won the event in 2017 and ’18.

Other Ryder Cup hopefuls began encouragingly, too.

Among those in the group one stroke off the lead were Yannik Paul of Germany, who is in a six-way fight for the third and final automatic place on the European Points List, and Ludvig Aberg of Sweden, who is hoping for a captain’s pick from Luke Donald.

Robert MacIntyre currently occupies that third spot on the European list and opened by shooting 68. Paul is MacIntyre’s closest challenger and will jump above the Scottish player with a win in Switzerland.

Of the others bidding for an automatic spot ahead of MacIntyre, Adrian Meronk of Poland shot 67, Adrian Otaegui of Spain and Rasmus Hojgaard of Denmark shot 69s, and Victor Perez of France shot 71.

The European Masters is the last event in Ryder Cup qualification. Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland and Tyrrell Hatton are already on the European team and Donald will make his six captain’s picks on Monday.