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Matt Fitzpatrick in six-way tie at the top in Switzerland

Matt Fitzpatrick in six-way tie at the top in Switzerland

Two-time champion Matt Fitzpatrick was part of a six-way tie for the lead after a low-scoring opening day of the Omega European Masters.

The Englishman put on a brilliant display as he carded a bogey-free 63 that left him at seven under alongside countryman Eddie Pepperell, Dane John Axelsen, Spaniard Nacho Elvira, Malaysia's Gavin Green and Japanese Masahiro Kawamura.

Swede Ludvig Aberg, Scotland's Scott Jamieson and German Yannik Paul were then a shot off the lead at Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club, with more on the line than just the trophy this week in the final qualifying event for the European Ryder Cup team.

Fitzpatrick needs to finish tied seventh or better to qualify via the World Points List, while Paul will make the team via the European Points List with a win, although he could be heading to Rome with a a tie for third with two others or better.

Axelsen, Elvira, Green and Kawamura all joined Fitzpatrick with blemish-free cards, while Pepperell made a single bogey on a course softened by rain with preferred lies in place.

Fitzpatrick missed the cut on his debut at this event in 2014 but then finished second and seventh in the next two editions before claiming the title back-to-back in 2017 and 2018.

He tied for 69th on his next trip up the mountains but was very much back to his brilliant best as he returned for the first time in four years and first time since he became a Major Champion at the 2022 U.S. Open.

"I played brilliant," he said. "Only hit two bad shots, one I got away with and one I got up and down, so that’s as good as I’ve played for a while."

He got off to a stunning start with an approach to tap-in range at the first and then drove the narrow, par-four sixth to set up a two-putt birdie and did similar at the next, leaving his tee-shot at the side of the green and getting down in two for another gain.

His tee-shot forced him to lay-up at the par-five ninth but he still made his birdie before adding another at the next with an approach to four feet.

A two-putt gain at the par-five 14th had him within one of the leading group and he joined it thanks to a tee-shot to five feet at the par-three 16th.

Aberg had set the very early pace as he birdied five of his first six holes and while he would add another in his bogey-free effort, it was Elvira who set the clubhouse target.

The 36-year-old followed a smart approach at the first with long putts at the third and fifth before he drove up to the front of the seventh, left himself 13 feet at the 12th, got up and down at the 14th and holed another lengthy putt on the last.

Green then joined him as he left himself a flick in to the fifth and made a hat-trick of gains from the seventh to turn in 31. He hit a fine tee-shot at the 13th, took advantage of the par-five 15th and holed a 30-footer on the 17th to hit the summit.

Starting on the tenth, Axelsen left himself little work to do with his approach to his opener and then made the most of the 14th and 15th before hitting a smart tee-shot into the 16th. An tee-shot to tap-in range at the seventh had him within one and he completed the par-five set on the ninth.

It looked for a long time that we would have a leading trio but Kawamura was the first to hit the summit of the afternoon starters.

He made the most of the 14th and hit a nice approach into the 18th but really came to life on his second nine, holing a long putt at the third, an eight-footer at the fifth, driving the seventh, putting his tee-shot to tap-in range at the eighth and taking advantage of the ninth.

Pepperell put approaches inside five feet on the tenth and 12th and followed gains at the back-nine's two par-fives with a tee-shot to inside ten feet on the 16th.

His only bogey of the day came on the first but more stunning iron play left him tap-ins on the fifth and sixth and he birdied the ninth after laying up.

Paul had an eagle on the 15th, five birdies and a bogey in his round, while Jamieson was blemish-free, making four birdies in a row from the 15th.

There was a group of nine players at five under including 59-year-old 2010 champion Miguel Ángel Jiménez and Fitzpatrick's brother Alex.

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