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Matt Fitzpatrick heads for European Masters title, Ryder Cup spot with two-shot lead into final round

CRANS-MONTANA – Former US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick will take a two-shot lead into Sunday’s final round of the European Masters, where victory should guarantee him a place at the Ryder Cup.

A two-time winner of the Swiss event, the Englishman carded a third-round 67 to move to 15-under 195 for the tournament.

The 29-year-old, who became the first player since the late Seve Ballesteros to retain a title at Crans-sur-Sierre with wins in 2017 and 2018, is two clear of Swedes Ludvig Aberg (66) and Alexander Bjork (68) and Scotland’s Connor Syme (65).

Fitzpatrick celebrated his birthday on Friday by storming into the lead after the second round.

The 2022 US Open champion racked up six birdies and a bogey in a 65 at Crans-sur-Sierre for a one-shot lead over Bjork.

He must finish at least tied seventh with one other golfer to qualify for a Ryder Cup spot via the world points list.

The tournament is the final qualifying event before Luke Donald names his six captain’s picks on Monday.

“Front nine I didn’t give myself too many chances, a little bit scrappy. A couple of pins that didn’t feel like they suited me,” said Fitzpatrick on Friday.

“I was disappointed to only shoot level par on the front given the scoring opportunities… but I’m in a good position going into the weekend.

“My irons have been good all year, much better than they have been the last few years. Driver has always been my strength, so we knew that was what was letting me down. So we spent a good bit of time on that.”

Fitzpatrick’s younger brother Alex carded a 68 on Saturday to share fifth on 12 under.

“It’s weird competing for a tournament because we never did it in juniors,” added the older brother of his sibling rivalry on Friday. “It’s going to be a nightmare for my parents.”

But Alex disagreed, saying: “Our parents would probably be happy because it would mean less walking, they can walk one round instead of two.”

Looking ahead, Donald’s European side will try to regain the Ryder Cup from the United States in the Italian capital of Rome from Sept 29 to Oct 1.

Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy, via the European points list, have already secured places in the 12-man team, as have Viktor Hovland and Tyrrell Hatton, through the world points list.

Poland’s Adrian Meronk (64) is unlikely to qualify automatically with a win in Switzerland, as he is six shots back after an even-par 70.

Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre (70), who currently holds the final qualifying place on the points list, also shot 70 to be three under.

But Victor Perez (69, 140) and Rasmus Hojgaard’s (72, 141) hopes of qualification ended, as the Frenchman and Dane both missed out on the weekend. REUTERS, AFP

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