SHEFFIELD’S Matthew Fitzpatrick is just one shot off the top of the leaderboard after firing a six-under-par 66 in the Czech Masters.
Spaniard Eduardo de la Riva holed his second shot for an eagle at the last to take a share of the first round lead at the Albatross Golf Resort near Prague.
The 33-year-old signed for a seven-under 65, matching his playing partner Renato Paratore, who could manage only a par at the 417-yard 18th after seven birdies in a blemish-free round.
Fitzpatrick started at the 10th and birdied the first two holes of his round and then added two more at 16 and 18.
His ‘homeward’ run, the front nine, saw further birdies at two and three and the 20-year-old had no blemishes on his card.
Richard Finch (Hull) and Harrogate’s John Parry both shot two-under-par 70.
They too started at the 10th and Parry – who finished 10th in the Made in Denmark event on Sunday – also birdied the hole and followed with eight pars.
He eagled the 538-yard par-5 first and birdied the fourth, but will feel aggrieved that he gave back half the advantage gained to par with bogeys at his closing two holes.
Finch quickly made amends for a bogey at 17 with a birdie at the next and had four more on the front nine, including three in four holes from the fourth. However, he also dropped shots at three and eight.
Former US Amateur Champion Fitzpatrick was thrilled to finish the day on six under but felt he could have gone even lower.
“I played really nicely to start with and was fairly consistent,” he said. “I didn’t really hole any putts though.
“I hit my approaches pretty close, which makes life easier, and I holed the short ones.
“I could have been more under par. It was almost a bit frustrating. I’m delighted to come in six under, but I missed a few chances on the last six holes. But you can’t complain at six under.
“It means a lot that people are talking about me as one of the favourites to win. It’s something I never thought I’d have in my first year out here. It’s something you dream about growing up.
“You watch TV and you want to be the guy winning and challenging all the time. It’s what you want and it means a lot to me.”
De la Riva and Paratore have a one-shot lead over Fitzpatrick and his fellow Englishman Sam Hutsby, Swede Pelle Edberg and Belgian Thomas Pieters.
Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey and Scotland’s Scott Jamieson, who holed his approach to the 379-yard fourth for eagle, are in a large group a further stroke back.