Brilliant Matt Fitzpatrick Makes Successful Defence in Swiss Mountains
IN SPORT, as in life, timing is everything. And for England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick, victory in the European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre came exactly seven days too late to secure his place in Europe’s Ryder Cup team. The young Englishman needed to win the Made in Denmark last week but finished sixth, which meant he finished just outside the eight automatic qualifying positions and Thomas Bjorn chose not to give him one of his four wild cards.
Fitzpatrick played some superb golf in Switzerland as he became the first man in 40 years to successfully defend the title at the Omega European Masters.
He started the day four shots ahead of Lucas Bjerregaard but the Dane carded a brilliant 63 to set the target at 17 under and Fitzpatrick had to birdie the last to take it to extra holes. The 24 year old then put his approach to 12 feet on the first trip back up the 18th and another birdie saw him become the first player since the late, great Seve Ballesteros to go back-to-back at Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club after rounds of 69, 64, 63 and 67 for a total of 263, 17 under par.
The final day saw a wonderful three-way tussle between Fitzpatrick, Bjerregaard and Mike Lorenzo-Vera, with the Frenchman right in the mix until put his approach into the water at the 18th and ran up a bogey. Lorenzo-Vera finished at 15 under, three shots clear of Spaniard Nacho Elvira and four ahead of England's Daniel Brooks.
Fitzpatrick knows all about doing things the hard way in this tournaments - needed extra holes to beat Scott Hend in the mountains last season. At 24 years and eight days old, he is the youngest Englishman to get to five European Tour victories, having won in every season since coming through qualifying school in 2014.
“This is what I wanted to achieve this season - another win,” he said. “To get it here again is so special and to get my fifth is amazing. I love this place. Of all my wins I'd say that was definitely the most difficult. I didn't have my A game today, despite loving this place I just didn't play my best today. I managed to grind it out, made some crucial birdies coming in and I'm delighted. This is one of my best. The up-and-down on seven was key. After just making bogey on six, which is kind of my favourite hole, making birdie there got me back on track and within touching distance.”
Lorenzo-Vera birdied the first after a stunning approach to tap-in range and when Fitzpatrick flew over the back of third and could not get up and down from out of the trees, the lead was shared.
Bjerregaard had holed a 35-footer on the first and a smart pitch into the fifth and lovely approach into the next meant there was a three-way tie. The big-hitting 27 year old led alone when he drove the green at the par four seventh and got down in two, with Lorenzo-Vera dropping a shot on the fourth but picking it straight back up on the next.
A remarkable flop shot saw Lorenzo-Vera save par on the next but Fitzpatrick three-putted from the fringe and suddenly the 54-hole leader was two adrift.
Youngest Englishman to reach 5 European Tour wins?— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) September 10, 2018
This guy ??, at 24 years and eight days ???????? pic.twitter.com/G2qEuMcvvC
Lorenzo-Vera drove the green and Fitzpatrick got up and down from the sand on the seventh for a pair of birdies but Bjerregaard made the most of the par five ninth to edge back ahead. An incredible bunker shot saw Lorenzo-Vera birdie the same hole - with Fitzpatrick following suit after laying up - and the 33 year old holed a 15-footer on the tenth to lead on his own.
An 18-footer on the 13th briefly had him in a two-shot lead but Bjerregaard hit the green in two at the par five 14th and 15th, taking advantage on both occasions to get back into a share.
Lorenzo-Vera's second into the 14th flew into the bushes over the back of the green and after a penalty-drop and a three-putt, Bjerregaard led by two. However, Fitzpatrick wasn’t finished yet. He got up and down from the front on the 15th green with Lorenzo-Vera doing the same from the sand as Bjerregaard set the target with three closing pars.
2017: Wins play-off in Crans ????— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) September 9, 2018
2018: Wins play-off in Crans ????
Because why do it once? pic.twitter.com/dXQrBbt3lY
Lorenzo-Vera found the water with his approach to the last to end his hopes of victory but Fitzpatrick put his second to six feet and set up that big finish. For Portugal Masters champion Bjerregaard, the result is a third consecutive top ten, while Lorenzo-Vera has three top tens this seasons as he looks for a maiden victory.
Frenchman Adrien Saddier made the 32nd hole-in-one of the season and second of the week when he holed a seven iron from 192 yards on the 13th.
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