SHEFFIELD’S Ryder Cup hopeful Matt Fitzpatrick convincingly beat European vice-captain Thomas Bjorn in the opening round of the Aberdeen Asset Management Paul Lawrie Match Play to boost his chances of making the team for Hazeltine.
Third-seed Fitzpatrick hit six birdies at Archerfield en route to a 4&3 victory over the experienced Dane.
He said: “I played really nicely and made quite a few birdies on the front nine. It was good to get off to that fast start and sort of just hold it together on the back nine.
“I think it was a good day and I’m just delighted to get the win in the first round.”
He will be joined in the second round by top seeds Chris Wood and Alex Noren, as well as tournament host Paul Lawrie.
Richard Bland, seeded fourth, also progressed comfortably. He sunk a 10-footer on the 17th to beat Swede Joakim Lagergren 2&1.
Fifteen of the 32 seeds crashed out on day one, including fifth seed Jorge Campillo, beaten by Marc Warren, and seventh seed Benjamin Hebert, defeated by Chris Paisley.
Another first-round casualty was last year’s semi-finalist David Howell. He suffered a one-hole defeat to home favourite Richie Ramsay.
Wood, also chasing a Ryder Cup place, progressed by winning 4&3 against Australian Brett Rumford, while Swede Noren recorded a 5&4 success over Scott Jamieson.
Lawrie hit six birdies on his way to clinching victory over Lucas Bjerregaard – who sits 295 places higher in the world rankings – on the 16th hole.
“I played lovely today,” Lawrie said. “I’ve been struggling a wee bit with a sore neck for the last 10 days, but today I felt fully fit and when I feel like that I feel as though I can make birdies and get some speed with the club.
“I’ve been struggling to hit the ball hard because I’ve been struggling with injuries, but today was the opposite, I felt really good.”
Richard Bland, seeded fourth, also advanced comfortably. He sunk a 10-footer on the 17th to beat Swede Joakim Lagergren 2&1.
But 15 of the 32 seeds crashed out in round one.