Andalucia Masters: Matt Fitzpatrick one off the lead, Jon Rahm misses cut
Matt Fitzpatrick and Laurie Canter are just one shot behind Romain Langasque at the halfway stage of the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama, but world No 1 and fan favourite Jon Rahm bowed out on 10 over par
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 17/10/21 6:06pm
Matt Fitzpatrick shrugged off a rough finish to his second round as he heads into the weekend of the Estrella Damm NA Masters just a shot off the lead.
Fitzpatrick looked destined for the outright halfway lead when he made his fifth birdie of the second day at the 17th, but his hopes of handing in a rare blemish-free card were undone by a poor final tee shot which led to a double-bogey six, leaving him a stroke behind Romain Langasque.
Back-to-back 69s were enough for the Frenchman to enjoy sole possession of the lead on four-under, with Fitzpatrick being joined in a share of second by fellow Englishman Laurie Canter, who motored up the leaderboard with a best-of-the-day 65.
Just a dozen players are in red numbers ahead of the third round as the halfway cut fell at five over par, although that score was five better than home favourite Jon Rahm could manage.
The world No 1 did play his last 11 holes in one under par, but his efforts merely limited the damage to a 74 as he made a surprise early exit, but Rahm put his disappointment to one side and again made sure that everyone in the lengthy queue of autograph hunters would not head home without his signature.
But his two playing partners, Ryder Cup team-mate Fitzpatrick and last week's Spanish Open winner Rafa Cabrera Bello, can look forward to another two days of signing flags and hats having outplayed an out-of-sorts Rahm over two testing days in Sotogrande.
"I played great, there's no other way to describe it," said Fitzpatrick, who refused to be agitated by his faltering finish. "I was really solid. I barely missed a green or a fairway, and I putted pretty solid too. It was a tough way to finish, but I'm not really disappointed.
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"You have to forget about it around this place. I was coasting at five under, playing solid, and all of a sudden I threw in one of those. It can happen at any point in the round.
"My focus is on planning my way around and concentrating on where I'm hitting it and trying to keep making pars - as daft as it sounds - if you roll a few in, then happy days.
"I feel like I'm playing well, so I just have to keep it up. It's all about patience, and not trying to be too greedy. Plotting your way around, hitting the right areas. If I hit 36 greens in the last 36 holes, I'll be absolutely delighted and I'd be surprised if I didn't win the trophy.
"You just have to plan your way around, be smart, miss it in the right spots when you can and then just be patient."
Fitzpatrick's second experience of the Ryder Cup turned out much the same as his first in 2016 as he again failed to earn a point in the contest, although he felt his play at Whistling Straits was not reflected in his results.
"I'm happy with where my game is at," added Fitzpatrick, refreshed after a fortnight away from competitive golf. "I played really well at the Ryder Cup, to no avail, unfortunately.
"But I was really pleased and almost disappointed to have two weeks off after it. I wanted to play again. So to come here and continue that is a positive."
Canter was also in an upbeat frame of mind having needed just 30 blows to cover the front nine, carding eight birdies and making just one mistake in his brilliant tackling of arguably the toughest layout on the European Tour.
"The front nine I didn't really miss a shot," said Canter. "There were a couple of holes we deliberately tried to hit it to 20, 25 feet, and then a couple where there was a window to get it close.
"I thought the pins were more generous than yesterday but even so, I was obviously delighted to go out in five under which is great round here. The perfectionist in me would have liked to play the last three holes better.
"I made a bad swing off 16 and then that maybe slightly took me out of the flow I was in. Up until then it was probably the best 15 holes of golf I've played on Tour. I've had lower scores out here but in terms of control of the golf ball and on a difficult course with quite challenging conditions, certainly on the front nine, it was really, really good."
Fitzpatrick and Canter share second with big-hitting Kiwi Ryan Fox and Sweden's Sebastian Soderberg, who both fired 69s, while Tour stalwarts Robert Rock and Scott Jamieson both got round in 68 to lie just two shots off the leader.