Monday 11 December 2017

Fitzpatrick eyes prize

Shane Lowry remains in the hunt for the British Masters, carding an impressive 69 yesterday
Shane Lowry remains in the hunt for the British Masters, carding an impressive 69 yesterday

Matthew Fitzpatrick, the youngest man in the field, again showed he could mix it with the European Tour's elite by ending the second round of the British Masters in a tie for the lead with Soren Kjeldsen yesterday.

The 21-year-old, started the day at the top of the leaderboard on his own and a two-under-par 69 gave him a nine-under total of 133, the same as experienced Dane Kjeldsen (68).

The pair were one stroke in front of Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67) and Richard Bland of England (67) after another warm, autumnal day at Woburn.

Meanwhile, Padraig Harrington's euphoric mood following Ireland's shock Euro 2016 qualifying win over world soccer champions Germany the night before evaporated all too quickly.

However, Shane Lowry was best of the Irish challenge as he stayed in the mix with an impressive 69 - handily placed on seven-under 135 while 2010 Graeme McDowell was two strokes further back.

Harrington started his second round at Woburn on the 10th hole and was soon cursing his luck, having three-putted the 11th, 12th and 13th for a hat-trick of bogeys.

The tall pine trees lining the par-71 layout situated 50 miles north of London tend to blot out some of the autumnal sunshine, throwing shadows across the greens that make it difficult for the players to read the subtle breaks.

Leader Fitzpatrick, aiming to become the youngest-ever winner of the $4.55 million event, was unable to repeat his swashbuckling opening-day 64 and admitted there were times when he simply had to "grind" his way round.

"I felt like I struggled a little bit out there today," he told reporters. "I hit some bad shots on my back nine but managed to make some nice putts."

The former world amateur number one was thankful for a chip-in birdie at the third hole, his 12th.

"The fact it went in was a bonus," said Fitzpatrick. "I would have been happy just to get it up and down, it was a good little shot."

Co-incidentally, the 40-year-old Kjeldsen also had a chip-in birdie at the third where he holed out from a greenside bunker.

"That set me up for the back nine," said the winner of the Irish Open in May. "I played well after that."

Kjeldsen, who also began his round at the 10th, followed up with birdies at the fifth and sixth before signing off with three straight pars.

The Dane has four previous victories and has earned a reputation as a gritty competitor.

Kjeldsen never likes to look too far ahead and was not even aware he had plotted his way to the top of the leaderboard.

"I haven't looked at any other results, I didn't even know I was leading," he said. "I just want to keep doing what I'm doing... going through the process and hitting nice shots."

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