Matt Fitzpatrick carded a four-under 68 to sit three behind Sergio Garcia at The Players Championship; Lee Westwood a further shot back after opening-round 69 – watch live all week on Sky Sports The Players
By Ali Stafford
Last Updated: 11/03/21 7:26pm
Matt Fitzpatrick believes he is on the most consistent run of his PGA Tour career so far after making a fast start to The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.
The Englishman carded an opening-round 68 at the PGA Tour’s flagship event to sit in tied-second and within three strokes of early pacesetter Sergio Garcia.
Fitzpatrick claimed a sixth European Tour title at the DP World Tour Championship in December but is still looking for a maiden win on the PGA Tour, with the world No 16 coming into this week’s event off the back of top-20 finishes in his last four worldwide starts.
“I’ve had one other good time that I remember when I had a good run of finishes, but that was back in Europe,” Fitzpatrick added. “Six, seven eight events in a row when I played, with plenty of top 20s then.
“Obviously compared to the strength of fields over here, it’s considerably different than that run. So, yeah, this is as good as it’s been and hopefully looking to kick on.”
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Fitzpatrick birdied two of his first three holes and followed a pitch-in eagle at the ninth by holing a 15-footer at the next, only to bogey the 12th and three-putt the 17th in between a chip-in birdie at the 14th.
“It was a bit hit and miss,” Fitzpatrick said about his performance. “Played really well off the tee, drove the ball well. Not too keen on how I hit my irons and then obviously my short game was fantastic.
Matthew Fitzpatrick holes out from 76 feet, 6 inches for eagle at No. 9 to post a 4-under 32 on the front nine.
Fitzpatrick is making his fifth start in THE PLAYERS Championship (best finish: T41/2019).
— PGA TOUR Communications (@PGATOURComms) March 11, 2021
“Putting wasn’t good today, but it’s not something I’m too worried about. Hopefully play a little bit more solid into the greens tomorrow and take more chances like I had today.”
Lee Westwood, looking to follow on from last week’s runner-up finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, is a further shot off the pace after mixing five birdies with two bogeys in an opening-round 69.
The former world No 1 birdied the par-five second and responded to a three-putt bogey from 15 feet at the fourth by picking up a shot at the sixth and posting a tap-in gain at the ninth.
Westwood bounced back from a bogey at the 10th by birdieing the next and rolling in a 20-footer at the 12th, before holing putts from seven feet to save par on each of his last two holes and stay at three under.
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“Obviously I built a lot of confidence last week and this is a place where I’ve played a lot and I’ve played well before,” Westwood said. “The key for me really coming in here is getting fresh again.
“I was writing the pins in my book last night and you could see that there were a few smelly ones out there. Like I haven’t seen too many of these on a Thursday before.
“When we went out first thing this morning, there wasn’t a lot of wind and with the greens, there was still a bit of moisture in them, so that’s the easiest scoring conditions are going to be certainly today and I think all week.
“I played solid. I hit 17 greens in regulation and I putted nicely. Even if you’re on some of these greens, it’s not easy to still make par. You had to be conservative in places, smart, play smart golf, strategic golf, and that’s what I tried to do and pick up the odd shot.”
Watch the Players Championship throughout the week live on Sky Sports’ dedicated channel – Sky Sports The Players. Live coverage continues on Friday from 11.30am on Sky Sports Golf.