Fitzpatrick’s 64 lines up Sheffield shootout with Willett in Switzerland

Sheffield's Matthew Fitzpatrick (Picture: David J. Phillip).
Sheffield's Matthew Fitzpatrick (Picture: David J. Phillip).
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MattHEW Fitzpatrick shot a superb third-round 64 to grab a share of the lead at the Omega European Masters alongside fellow Sheffield golfer Danny Willett.

Fitzpatrick, the highly-rated 20-year-old playing his first season on the European Tour, recorded eight birdies to move to 12 under par for the tournament at the picturesque Crans-sur-Sierre in the Swiss Alps.

Willett fared less well as he sought to protect his halfway lead, shooting a one-over-par 71, but kept pace with an eagle on the 15th and later revealed he had been feeling unwell.

Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin was third on 10 under with defending champion David Lipsky, the American, a shot further back.

Willett, the world No 32 who tied for sixth at the Open on Monday, began the day with a one-stroke lead but soon hit problems. He bogeyed the first and third and then took a double bogey after going out of bounds at the fourth. He did compensate by picking up three birdies but further dropped shots at the 10th and 11th set him back again until he holed from 30 feet at the 15th.

He then sank a testing putt for par at the 16th to ensure he at least carried some momentum into the final day.

Willett said: “Golf’s not the greatest game when you’re feeling a little bit under the weather, but I won’t be using it as an excuse.

“It wasn’t the best of days and the round could’ve got away from me early doors. So it was good to hang tough and finish off the round quite nicely.

“Hopefully that’s my one bad round out the way.”

Fitzpatrick – himself pain-free after toothache earlier in the week – took advantage of Willett’s difficulties, coming home in 30 with five birdies in what was the best round of the day.

He holed from 20 feet on the 13th and 17th as he showed strong nerves in pursuit of his maiden professional title.

Fitzpatrick said: “I didn’t get off to the best of starts, with a bogey at the first. At that point 74 was looking much more likely than 64.

“I feel like I’ve been playing well for a while now, so it’s been coming, but 65-64 (Friday and Saturday) is still good going.

“I also have to thank the dentists I visited (Friday) because I was in a lot of pain at the start of the week, but they did a pretty good job on me.

“I’ve just got to keep it going really. It sounds really boring, but I’ll be taking it one hole at a time and trying to stay in the moment and stay patient. Although that’s easier said than done.”

Jacquelin matched Fitzpatrick’s eight birdies but a triple bogey seven on the fourth, along with two other dropped shots, tempered his challenge and he signed for a 68.

He will nevertheless go into the final round firmly in contention, as will Lipsky, who shot 69 after a penalty drop and bogey on the 18th.

Korean pair Baek Seuk-hyun and YE Yang, the 2009 US PGA Championship winner, were tied for fifth at eight under.

Pre-tournament favourite Sergio Garcia, the world No 10, climbed into a tie for 16th at five under with a four-under-par 66.