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European Masters: England's Matt Fitzpatrick makes strong start to boost Ryder Cup hopes

Matt Fitzpatrick
Matt Fitzpatrick represented Europe in 2016 and 2021 in the Ryder Cup

European Masters first-round leaderboard

-7 M Kawamura (Jap), E Pepperell (Eng), M Fitzpatrick (Eng), I Elvira (Spa), G Green (Mas), J Axelsen (Den);-6 S Jamieson (Sco) L Aberg (Swe), Y Paul (Ger)

Selected:-3 P Harrington (Ire), A Meronk (Pol); -2 R MacIntyre (Sco);-1 R Hojgaard (Den); +1 Victor Perez (Fra)

Full leaderboard

England's Matt Fitzpatrick and Germany's Yannik Paul made ideal starts in their final attempt to qualify for the Ryder Cup in the European Masters.

Fitzpatrick, the 2022 US Open champion, opened up seven-under 63 to share a six-way tie for the lead.

Paul was one shot behind on six under par alongside Sweden's Ludvig Aberg, who is hoping to earn a wildcard after turning professional in June.

"That's as good as I've played for a while," said Fitzpatrick.

"I played brilliant. I think I only hit two bad shots - one I got away with and one I managed to get up and down."

Fitzpatrick's bogey-free round at a tournament he has won twice comes with him needing to finish tied seventh with one player or better to overhaul fellow Englishman Tommy Fleetwood on the world points list.

A victory for Paul would see him replace Robert MacIntyre in the final berth on the European points list.

Scotland's MacIntyre, who played in the same group as Paul, is five shots adrift of the leaders after carding a two-under 68, while another Ryder Cup hopeful, Poland's Adrian Meronk, is one shot better off on three under.

At present, only four European players are currently confirmed for the biennial men's golf competition against the United States.

Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland and Tyrrell Hatton have all come through the European and world points lists, with captain Luke Donald set to name his six wildcard picks on Monday.

Fleetwood is certain to receive one if replaced in the automatic qualifying places by Fitzpatrick for the 29 September-1 October match in Rome.