Fitzpatrick steps up his Swiss title defence

Matt Fitzpatrick did not let his omission from Europe's Ryder Cup team knock him off track as he boosted hopes of a successful Omega European Masters title defence with a birdie-laden second round of 64.

Matt Fitzpatrick is thriving at the European Masters

The Sheffielder, who represented Europe at Hazeltine two years ago, was one of the contenders for a wild-card spot in Thomas Bjorn’s side for Paris but was this week overlooked by the Dane.

However, the 24-year-old Englishman found comfort back at the familiar surroundings of Crans-Sur-Sierre, where he won the most recent of his four European Tour titles 12 months ago, and also finished runner-up in 2015.

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After a relatively low-key 69 on the first day, he found his touch in some style yesterday, overcoming a poor start that included bogey fives on the first and fourth to drain eight birdies in 14 holes.

That saw him sign for a six-under-par 64 – his 13th under-par round out of 16 at the Swiss mountain resort – and left him seven under for the tournament, two shots behind leader Hidesto Tanihara (66) of Japan and joint-second with Dane Lucas Bjerregaard (65) and American newcomer Doug Ghim (65).

Fitzpatrick said: “It was a great day. Got off to a bad start. Two over through four but that is one reason why I love this golf course, you know you can get it back. You’ve got chances coming in, so I was delighted to take them.

“It is nice to be up at altitude here. I think it will be an exciting weekend.”

His compatriot Danny Willett, the 2015 champion who is without a tournament win since claiming the Masters in 2016, was also up amongst the frontrunners after a 66 left him in a group on six under which also included Scot Stephen Gallagher (66).

Overnight leader Maximilian Kieffer dropped back to five under after making a one-over-par 71. Thomas Pieters, who like Fitzpatrick had also been mooted as a possible Ryder Cup wild-card selection, had a day to forget.

The Belgian snapped his putter over his knee in frustration after twice finding water on the 14th and recording a quadruple-bogey nine, leaving him having to play the final few holes putting with a wedge.

Pieters ended up with a seven-over-par 77 and missed the cut.