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PRAGUE (Reuters) - Thomas Pieters boosted his chances of an 11th-hour charge into Europe's Ryder Cup team by moving into a share of the lead after the second round of the Czech Masters on Friday.
The 24-year-old Belgian, who won in Prague last year, carded a five-under-par 67 to join Dane Jeff Winther (66) on 134, 10 under.
Pieters needs to win in the Czech Republic and at next week's Made In Denmark tournament, the last points-counting event, to keep alive his chances of playing in next month's Ryder Cup against the United States at Hazeltine, Minnesota.
"It's not really in my mind," he told reporters, referring to the biennial team event. "All I can do is my best this week and we'll see where it takes me, and next week's the same thing.
"I'm hitting irons very well, my ball-striking has been very good the last few days. It feels like controlled and stress-free golf."
Matt Fitzpatrick, who is in the top nine automatic qualifying places for the Ryder Cup, shared third spot in Prague with fellow Britons David Howell, Tommy Fleetwood and Steven Brown and Swedish pair Robert Karlsson and Peter Hanson.
"I think everyone in the world knows it's a big week this week, as is next week, so to start like that is very pleasing," Fitzpatrick said after returning a 69 for 138.
"It is difficult (not to think of the Ryder Cup)... but it's something you've got to put to the back of your mind and just get on with the job. If I have a good week here and a good week next week then I'll close it up."
Writing by Tony Jimenez; Editing by Clare Fallon