Ryder Cup: Qualifying process proof Matt Fitzpatrick can handle pressure

Europe's Matthew Fitzpatrick on the first green during a practice session ahead of the 41st Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota, USA. (Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire)

Europe's Matthew Fitzpatrick on the first green during a practice session ahead of the 41st Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota, USA. (Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire)

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SHEFFIELD’S Matt Fitzpatrick had to walk through two valleys of indifferent form this season before climbing to the peak of automatic Ryder Cup qualification.

But the former US Amateur champion says that the pressure of trying to earn a place in the European side that takes on the USA at Hazeltine this week was not a factor in some disappointing displays either side of an impressive seventh-place finish in the year’s first major, the Masters.

“Last year, after my win [in the British Masters in October] I obviously jumped straight into the team positions, but until towards the end of the qualifying period I did not even think about it,” he said. “I knew how far away it was so it did not enter into my head.

“At the start of this year I did not play very well, but that was nothing to do with thinking about the Ryder Cup.

“Obviously I played well at Augusta then I struggled again after that. Then when it got nearer the Ryder Cup time and some people were making moves [up the rankings] I started thinking about it again and I wanted to do everything possible to make it.

“Obviously I was trying to focus on doing my best and I maintain, the more I look back, that thinking about the Ryder Cup wasn’t actually what caused me to play poorly.”

Fitzpatrick’s assertion is proof that extrapolating what is going on in a player’s head from the figures they are writing down on their card is an imprecise science.

What is certain is that he will do everything he can – as, too, will fellow Sheffielder Danny Willett, the Masters champion – to play a role in trying to keep the Ryder Cup in European hands.

On-lookers during Wednesday’s third day of practice were once again trying to second-guess the thinking of the rival captains, Davis Love III and Darren Clarke.

Fitzpatrick is sure that whatever pairings Clarke melds together will be welcomed by Europe’s players.

“I look at the team and I don’t think there is anyone that doesn’t want to play with anyone else,” said the 22-year-old. “I think we are a really good team; everyone knows one another really well and we have got a good mix of experienced and new players.

“It will be interesting to see who plays with who and Darren probably has some set pairings already in mind.”

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