On Friday at Crans-sur-Sierre in Switzerland, the English golfer Matt Fitzpatrick not only gave himself a big birthday present, but raised his hand for one of the six automatic selections for inclusion in the European team for the upcoming Ryder Cup battle against America to be.
Fitzpatrick shot 65 in the second round of the European Masters on his 29th birthday. At the halfway mark, he is one stroke (128, -12) ahead of Alexander Bjork (129, -11) of Sweden.
Fitzpatrick’s younger brother, Alex, also stuck his chin out and is just two shots back with Frenchman Romain Langasque in third place on 130 (-10), with Poland’s Adrian Meronk, Renato Paratore (Italy) and Ludvig Arberg from Sweden all at 131 (-9).
If Matt Fitzpatrick wins the tournament, he will move his compatriot Tommy Fleetwood out of sixth position (automatic qualification for the Ryder Cup).
However, Fleetwood will be included in his 12-man squad early next week by Luke Donald, the captain of the European team, due to his consistent performances on the US PGA Tour.
Of the South Africans, Hennie du Plessis, Oliver Bekker and JC Ritchie (all three at 133, -7) did very well, with Justin Walters (134) and Erik van Rooyen, Wilco Nienaber and Zander Lombard (all three at 135) and Thriston Lawrence (136) also in the race.
* In the local Sunshine Series, 23-year-old Gerhard Pepler held his nerve when he held off the onslaught of 47-year-old veteran Hennie Otto and James Hart du Preez in the third and final round of the Gary and Vivienne Player Challenge Tournament at the White River fended off country club.
Pepler shot his third consecutive 66 and finished at 198, 15 under par. He secured his victory with an eagle on the 16th hole and a subsequent birdie on the 17th.
Pepler finished two strokes ahead of Du Preez and Otto (200, -13).
The equally young Kyle de Beer, who teed off in only his third tournament in the Sunshine Series since turning professional, led after the first two rounds.
But his nerves frayed in the final round when he conceded par on the 7th, 8th, 11th, 12th and 14th holes and finished joint fourth on 201 (-12) with Dylan Naidoo. Naidoo conceded strokes on the 11th, 12th and 18th holes.
Merrick Bremner was sixth (202, -11), with Rhys West seventh (203, -10).
* In the Port Classic tournament for women, which is part of the American LPGA series and is decided in Oregon, the French player Perrine Delacour (130, -14) took the lead after the second round.
She is one stroke ahead of Sweden’s Linn Grant (131, -13), with America’s Megan Khang third at 132 (-12).
South Africa’s Ashleigh Buhai scored 69 shots in the second round and is joint 44th at 139 (-5).