- Fitzpatrick hits seven-under to share lead
- Paul one shot behind
- Two automatic Ryder Cup slots up for grabs
England’s Matt Fitzpatrick and Germany’s Yannik Paul got off to an excellent start in their last chance to qualify for the Ryder Cup at the European Masters.
Fitzpatrick, the 2022 US Open champion, began with a seven-under 63 to share the lead with five others.
Paul was one shot behind, posting a score of six under par, alongside Sweden’s Ludvig Aberg, who hopes to secure a wildcard spot after turning professional in June.
“I haven’t played this well in a while,” Fitzpatrick commented. “I played brilliantly. I think I only hit two poor shots – one I got away with, and one I managed to recover from.”
Results crucial for Ryder Cup selection
Fitzpatrick’s bogey-free round at a tournament he has won twice is crucial, as he needs to finish tied for seventh place or better to surpass fellow Englishman Tommy Fleetwood on the world points list.
A victory for Paul would secure his place in the Ryder Cup, replacing Robert MacIntyre in the final position on the European points list.
Scotland’s MacIntyre, who played in the same group as Paul, trails the leaders by five shots after carding a two-under 68. Another Ryder Cup hopeful, Poland’s Adrian Meronk, is one stroke better off at three under par.
Only four Europeans confirmed for Ryder Cup
Currently, only four European players have confirmed their spots in the biennial men’s golf competition against the United States.
Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland, and Tyrrell Hatton have all qualified through the European and world points lists. Captain Luke Donald is set to announce his six wildcard picks on Monday.
Fleetwood is almost certain to receive one of the wildcard picks if he loses his automatic qualifying place to Fitzpatrick for the September 29 – October 1 match against the USA in Rome.
Fitzpatrick is 11/8 to win the European masters with bet365 at the time of writing. Paul is a little further back at 20/1.
Those looking to bet on the Ryder Cup need to look at the form of the players heading into the tournament and need to look at the potential selections and the effect that may have on the European team. If Fitzpatrick and Paul make the team punters need to decide whether they think that this is likely to increase Europe’s chances of regaining the trophy. The USA have fantastic strength in depth and are currently favourites. However, Europe have three of the top five players in the world. Hovland recently won the FedEx cup, with McIiroy, seemingly over his injury problems, finishing fourth. Unibet have the USA as 3/4 favourites at the time of writing with Europe 7/5 and a draw 12/1. With the previous winner to take the trophy in the event of a draw this leaves the USA 5/9 favourites with bet365 to lift the trophy ahead of Europe (13/10).