Fitzpatrick flying in bid for automatic Ryder Cup spot


Matt Fitzpatrick and Yannik Paul have made ideal starts in their last-ditch bids to qualify for the Ryder Cup in the European Masters.

Two-time winner Fitzpatrick, who needs to finish tied seventh with one player or better to overhaul the absent Tommy Fleetwood on the World Points list, carded a flawless opening seven-under-par 63 to be part of a six-way tie for the lead on Thursday.

Paul, who would replace Scotland's Robert MacIntyre in the final berth on the European Points list with a win, is just a shot behind on six under alongside Sweden's Ludvig Aberg, who continues to make a strong case for a wild card despite only turning professional in June.

"I played brilliant," former US Open champion Fitzpatrick said after a round containing seven birdies and no bogeys.

"I think I only hit two bad shots, one I got away with and one I managed to get up and down.

"That's as good as I've played for a while. I made a good par save on 13 but missed a couple of putts for that score as well so really feel comfortable out there and it's so nice to be back."

Fitzpatrick shared the lead with compatriot Eddie Pepperell, Denmark's John Axelsen, Spain's Nacho Elvira, Malaysia's Gavin Green and Japan's Masahiro Kawamura, while Scotland's Scott Jamieson was alongside Paul and Aberg in a tie for seventh.

Paul, MacIntyre and another Ryder Cup hopeful, Poland's Adrian Meronk, all played in the same group, with MacIntyre returning a 68 and Meronk shooting 67.

"Obviously there's a lot of (Ryder Cup) talk going on, but for me it didn't really matter who I was playing with," Paul said.

"There are so many things you can't really control. I just try to see it as a normal tournament and enjoy it, be grateful and if I feel like that I tend to play my best golf.

"So I didn't really compare myself to anyone, just try to stay in my zone and today it worked really well."

Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald will name his six wild cards on Monday, with Fleetwood certain to receive one if replaced in the automatic qualifying places by Fitzpatrick.

Jason Scrivener headed the Australian challenge at the Swiss tournament, firing a two-under 68 but he was still five shots off the pace back in a tie for 46th place.

Blake Windred, the other Australian in the field, struggled to a seven-over 77, lying 154th of the 156 starters after the opening day.