Englishman Matt Fitzpatrick in top spot at Nordea Masters
A late decision to contest the Nordea Masters could pay massive dividends for England’s Matt Fitzpatrick after he claimed the halfway lead in Stockholm.
Sixty two players were separated by just four shots after the first round at Bro Hof Slott Golf Club, with Fitzpatrick one shot off the six-way tie for the lead following an opening 68.
But after firing seven birdies and no bogeys in a flawless 65 yesterday, the 21-year-old from Sheffield found himself with a three-shot lead over compatriots Andrew Johnston and Ross Fisher, former Ryder Cup star Nicolas Colsaerts, Scotland’s Scott Henry and Sweden’s Alexander Bjork.
A second European Tour title tomorrow would see Fitzpatrick regain third place in the Ryder Cup qualifying race from Chris Wood, who won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth last week.
“It was a last-minute scheduling thing for me,” said the former US Amateur champion, who led from start to finish in the British Masters at Woburn last year and was seventh in the Masters in April.
“I felt like I needed to play a little bit more. I knew from playing last year it’s such a great event and I heard good things about the course. It’s proved to be all right so far and hopefully two more days of good playing and we’ll see what happens.
“I just gave myself a lot of chances today. Everyone will probably laugh when I say it but I missed a couple of chances on 13 and 14, so roll those in and all of a sudden you are nine-under, but I just putted really solidly and played well overall.”
Colsaerts has not won since claiming the Volvo World Match Play Championship in 2012, a success which led to him being selected as a wild card for the ‘Miracle at Medinah’.
But the 33-year-old Belgian has shown consistent form in recent weeks and believes the course suits his game after carding five birdies and an eagle in his 66.
Colsaerts told Sky Sports: “It’s almost like apart from a few holes, I don’t care where I hit it. I can fly a few bunkers and even if I am in the rough I don’t really care much. There’s only the par fives where you need to take a bit more of an aggressive line because that’s the only thing you have.
“I won’t say I’m coming to my best again but everything seems to be heading in the right way. I keep a lot more momentum in the rounds than I used to. I feel like I have always played decent, it was just those momentum breaks that I did not really manage very well and now I do and it puts me regularly in a good position.”
Lee Westwood’s bid for a record fourth victory in the event looked in serious danger when he dropped three shots in five holes on the back nine, but the former world number one regrouped superbly after a 58-minute delay due to the threat of lightning.
“The longer you play this game the more stupid and unpredictable it gets,” Westwood said after birdies on the 16th, 17th and 18th completed a 71 to finish five-under par.
“I started off great then could not make many putts, lost my swing around the turn, got a bit frustrated and did not hit a green for about two hours. Then we had a break, came in, had a sandwich and a think about it and went back out and did not really miss a shot.”
In contrast, playing partner and Ryder Cup team-mate Henrik Stenson bogeyed two of the last three holes to shoot 70 and end the day on two-under.
Michael Hoey hinted that a return to his best form might not be far away as he followed up his opening 69 with a 71 to lie four-under and in a tie for 19th place. It is the first time in 12 tournaments that the Shandon Park man has made the cut on the tour this season.
Peter Lawrie is also safely through to the weekend after adding a 72 to his opening 71, but Paul Dunne couldn’t build on his opening round of 70 and slumped to a 75 to miss the weekend action.