By Keith Jackson at Wentworth
Last Updated: 24/05/18 4:45pm
Matt Fitzpatrick was happy with all aspects of his game as he made an excellent start to the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
Fitzpatrick defied the early morning showers to make birdies at three of the first four holes, and he went on to pick up three more shots on the back nine while dropping his only stroke of the day at the 15th.
The Englishman’s improved short-game was evident as a well-crafted pitch-and-putt at the 17th resulted in his sixth birdie of the round, although he appeared likely to scupper his good early work when he found water with his ambitious second to the last.
But Fitzpatrick, who closed with a 66 last year to finish tied for 12th, holed a great putt for par to stay at five under, leaving him one shot adrift of clubhouse leaders Dean Burmester and Darren Fichardt.
“The golf course was playing really long, so to hit four-iron in on the first and five-iron in on the third and make two birdies, that’s a great way to start,” he said.
“And at the end, it obviously wasn’t an easy up-and-down at 18, so I’m obviously delighted to play a really good pitch and that’s two good pitches in a row on 17 and 18. That’s something we’ve been working on. Even if I missed the putt, I think would have been not too disappointed. Showing signs of improvement there.
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“This is only my third time here, and I think I’ve also been driving it much better. I felt like I drove it a lot better last year, as well, but didn’t quite hole as many putts. This year, I’m driving it solid, so hopefully I can take that into the next three days and sort of build on this.”
Fitzpatrick ended the first round three shots better than reigning European No 1 Tommy Fleetwood, who is determined to remain patient on a course he has struggled on in the past after opening with a three-birdie 70.
Despite his birdie at 18 being his only gain on the par-fives, Fleetwood declared himself “very pleased!” with his round and added: “You want to pick up shots where you can because it’s a really tricky course and you can easily get out of position, so when you get chances, you want to take them.
“Generally my results have been disappointing the last couple of years here. I do feel comfortable around the course, but there are a few tee shots that are hard to picture. Seven years on, still feeling like I’m getting used to the course!
“On a day like today, you just have to keep and going and stay patient because the scoring is never as good as you think it could be. It’s playing long and you think there’s loads of chances but there really isn’t, so you just have to keep that in mind.
“My driving wasn’t quite as I’d have liked it, particularly in my warm-up. I hit a left shot and got away with it on the first, and irons are still so difficult around here. I don’t know why it’s so difficult to get the clubs right. The wind swirls a little bit and it’s soft today but it’s still hard to get the balls close to the holes. It’s really tricky, but it’s just a good, solid start.”
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