Matt Fitzpatrick has two-shot lead at European Masters and closes on Ryder Cup place

CRANS-MONTANA, Switzerland — Aiming to seal his place at the Ryder Cup this month, Matt Fitzpatrick doubled his lead at the European Masters to two shots after the third round on Saturday.

Fitzpatrick played the par-4 18th hole perfectly and sank a six-foot birdie putt to card a 3-under-par round of 67. He has a 15-under total of 195 at sun-soaked Crans-sur-Sierre club in the Swiss Alps.

The 2022 U.S. Open champion needs to finish better than seventh alone to take the third and final qualifying place via the World Points List for Europe’s Ryder Cup team. Tommy Fleetwood holds third place though is not playing this week.

Fitzpatrick leads by two strokes from Alexander Björk, his playing partner on Saturday who shot 68, plus a second Swede, Ludvig Saberg (66), and Connor Syme (65).

Alex Fitzpatrick, the younger brother of Matt, is a shot further back tied for fifth with Nicolai Højgaard. They made 68 and 66, respectively.

Matt Fitzpatrick briefly ceded the lead to Björk when making double bogey at the par-3 13th – hooking his tee shot into green-side water – but fired three birdies in the closing five holes.

“That was really important. It could have easily unraveled,” Fitzpatrick said of his late-round rally. He also dropped shots at holes 1 and 9.

The European Masters typically has a tight finish, and the past nine editions have been won either in a playoff or by one stroke.

Fitzpatrick’s 2017 and ‘18 victories were in playoffs, and a third title in the mountains would match Spanish great Seve Ballesteros.

“There’s a lot of things for me this week,” Fitzpatrick said. “I can wrap up Ryder Cup and I can obviously match Seve’s record.”

The European Masters is the last qualifying event for Europe. The Ryder Cup is from Sept. 29-Oct. 1 at the Marco Simone club near Rome.

A third and final automatic place on the European Points List is also there to be won on Sunday, to join the already-qualified Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland and Tyrrell Hatton

Robert MacIntyre holds that place and the Scot shot a level-par 70 on Saturday to be 3 under.

Europe captain Luke Donald will make six picks on Monday.

AP golf:

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