US PGA: Matt Fitzpatrick will take break as Ryder Cup chase bites

SHEFFIELD'S Matt Fitzpatrick has admitted he played too many tournaments in pursuit of a Ryder Cup debut after ending a worrying run of form on a positive note.

Sheffield's Matt Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick currently occupies the final automatic qualifying place for Europe’s team to face the United States at Hazeltine in September, but came into the US PGA Championship on the back of four consecutive missed cuts.

However, after surviving the cut at Baltusrol on the mark of two over par, the 21-year-old posted scores of 70 and 67 at the weekend to give himself a boost heading into the final few qualifying events.

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“I’m obviously delighted, a bogey-free 67 in the last round of a major is a great way to finish,” said Fitzpatrick, who won his second European Tour title in the Nordea Masters in June to add to his British Masters triumph.

“It’s the first time for a while I’ve managed to keep the bogeys off my card.

“There weren’t as many birdies as I would’ve liked and I probably left a few out there, but overall I have to be very happy.

“It was a massive relief to make the cut on Friday, because I’d expected to miss by one as has been the case quite a lot recently.

“My dad wouldn’t stop refreshing the scoring and I had loads of people texting me telling me I was in, then I was out, so it was a bit of a nightmare, but luckily I made it through and made the most of my opportunity.

“I’m playing the Paul Lawrie Match Play next week, then taking a week off and playing Czech Masters and Made in Denmark.

“I need to take a proper break off at some point, because I’ve been playing far too much golf.

“The reason why I’ve done it is obvious, but it’s something I need to work on.

“I haven’t played anywhere near as well as I can this week, and yet I’ve still walked away with a half-decent result.

“So if it clicks and I can put it all together, like I did in Sweden, then I know I’m capable of challenging.”

South Africa’s Branden Grace added his name to the list of contenders for the final major of the year as the weather-affected US PGA Championship headed towards a tense climax.

American Jimmy Walker claimed a one-shot lead after the delayed third round was finally completed yesterday, carding a 68 at Baltusrol to finish 11 under par and a shot ahead of defending champion Jason Day.

Open champion Henrik Stenson, seeking a second major title in the space of three weeks following his victory at Royal Troon, was a shot further back alongside American Brooks Koepka after carding a third consecutive 67.

With no redraw taking place after the third round in order to speed up play, Grace teed off more than two hours before the final pairing of Walker and Robert Streb and birdied the second, fourth and seventh to move to within two shots of the lead.

Play in the third round resumed at 7am (12pm BST) and the fourth got under way at 8.40am (1.40pm BST), meaning the likes of Padraig Harrington – who shot 65 on Saturday – had the chance to set a testing early target.

Harrington, who successfully defended his Open title in 2008 and won the US PGA a month later, birdied the third and picked up another shot on the fifth after hitting the pin with his approach.

However, the 44-year-old Dubliner was unable to make any further inroads and eventually had to settle for a 68 to finish six under par, with former US Open champion Justin Rose on four under after compiling the same score.

“They’ve put a lot of back pins out there and it’s difficult to get close to them with these soft greens,” Harrington said.

“I didn’t really give myself many chances and it was a little disappointing not to birdie the last, but such is life.

“I probably played my best on Thursday and shot the worst score, which is interesting. Six under is probably a good return on the week, although it’s obviously not good enough.

“If it hangs in the top 10 it certainly pushes me up in the FedEx Cup play-offs, which will be nice to know my schedule.”

Harrington started the week 140th in the FedEx Cup standings and needs to climb inside the top 125 before August 21 to qualify for the first play-off event the following week.

“So many things are better,” the three-time major winner added. “I’m happy with my swing, getting a lot better with my putting, getting a lot better with my mental side.

“The only thing I’m not comfortable with would be my short game. Then when I look at the PGA Tour, I’m No 1 in bunkers and No 4 in strokes gained around the greens, but I don’t see it so good. Maybe I need to change my attitude. Everything else is good.

“I feel good. I would like to take this into every day I play the next number of years.”