Ryder Cup snub Matthew Fitzpatrick earns fifth win at European Masters

CRANS-MONTANA, SWITZERLAND - SEPTEMBER 09: Matthew Fitzpatrick of England celebrates with the trophy after winning The Omega European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club on September 9, 2018 in Crans-Montana, Switzerland. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images) Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Ryder Cup snub Matthew Fitzpatrick earns fifth win at European Masters

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Ryder Cup snub Matthew Fitzpatrick earns fifth win at European Masters

Matthew Fitzpatrick needs to time his wins just a little better. He’s only a week off.

The 24-year-old Englishman became the first player since Seve Ballesteros in 1978 to successfully defend the European Masters. Fitzpatrick defeated Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard at the first extra hole of a sudden-death playoff to win his fifth European Tour title.

Too bad the victory didn’t come last week: it would have earned him a second successive Ryder Cup appearance. Fitzpatrick needed to win the Made in Denmark tournament to make the European Ryder Cup team. Instead he finished T-7.

Aside from emulating Ballesteros, Fitzpatrick surpassed another legendary European player. At 24 years and eight days old, the 2013 U.S. Amateur champion bettered Sir Nick Faldo’s record as youngest English player to reach five wins. Faldo was 25 years and 65 days when he won the 1982 Haig Whisky TPC.

“This is what I wanted to achieve this season – another win,” said Fitzpatrick, who returned a closing 3-under 67. “To get it here again is so special and to get my fifth is amazing.

“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.”

The one-time Northwestern player began the day with a two-shot lead over France’s Mike Lorenza Vera, and by four over Bjerregaard, who closed with a 7-under-63. Bogeys at the third and sixth holes set Fitzpatrick back, but the turning point came at the driveable par-4 seventh hole. His drive finished close to the hole and a chip and a putt earned him a birdie.

“The up-and-down on seven was key,” Fitzpatrick said. “After just making bogey on six, which is kind of my favorite hole, making birdie there got me back on track and within touching distance.”

Birdies followed at the ninth, 12th and 15th holes, but Fitzpatrick needed to birdie the 18th to reach 17 under par and force a playoff. He duly did so, and then birdied the hole again when he and Bjerregaard returned to the tee.

Bjerregaard was looking for his second European Tour victory following last year’s Portugal Masters.

“I played really well today and I got the start we talked about yesterday,” the 27-year-old said. “Five under on the front nine put a little bit of pressure on the guys.

“It’s hard right now, I would have loved to get that win but it’s been a great week and you can’t argue with two birdies from Matt on 18. Congrats to him.”Fitzpatrick has certainly developed a head for heights in the Swiss Alps. Beside the last two years, he finished seventh in 2016 and second the year before after missing the cut in 2014. The Sheffield player is 55-under in 18 trips around the Crans-sur-Sierre course, which Ballesteros redesigned. His stroke average is 66.94.

Fitzpatrick earned a check for $481,500 and moves from 23rd on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai to 13th. Bjerregaard took home $321,000 and moves to 24th on the European pecking order. Gwk

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