A late decision to contest the Nordea Masters could pay massive dividends for Sheffield’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 Yorkshireman 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.
“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.”
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 No 1 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.
Huddersfield’s Chris Hanson (72 69) and Malton’s Simon Dyson (74 69) also made the weekend, but Leeds’s Daniel Gavins (75 74) missed the cut.