January 24, 2019 / 3:35 PM / 6 months ago

Late birdie spree fires Fitzpatrick into lead at Dubai Desert Classic

(Reuters) - Matthew Fitzpatrick finished with four straight birdies to take a one-shot lead after the opening round of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: Golf - European Tour - British Masters - Walton Heath Golf Club, Walton-on-the-Hill, Britain - October 12, 2018 England's Matthew Fitzpatrick during the second round Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

The Englishman recovered from a bogey on the sixth hole to post seven-under-par 65, his best opening round score since the 2015 British Masters, where he won the title.

In perfect scoring conditions, Fitzpatrick rattled in a 25-feet birdie putt at the 15th to lift the crowd at Emirates Golf Club, before three more gains in as many holes gave him the outright lead.

“It was obviously a great finish to the round,” the five-times European Tour winner said.

“A couple of things that I’ve been doing in the off-season sort of looked to have paid off a little bit.

“I just added a bit of extra length to my driver, so it’s given me a few yards to help get on in two on the last because I’ve never been able to do that. And then, just wedging it a lot better has given me a few more chances coming in.”

Former Masters champion Sergio Garcia and world number five Bryson DeChambeau carded bogey-free rounds of 66 in the morning session to finish one shot behind Fitzpatrick.

The pair were part of an eight-man group on the second spot alongside Australian Scott Hend, Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee, Finland’s Kalle Samooja, England’s Callum Shinkwin and Frenchmen Matthieu Pavon and Romain Langasque.

American DeChambeau, who won four titles on the U.S. PGA Tour last year, is determined to hone his skills outside his homeland this season as he makes his first appearance in Dubai since 2016.

The 25-year-old was pleased with his score but felt there was room for improvement on the greens heading into weekend.

“I was able to recover in a couple of situations, made a couple of long putts and then got up and down on six, which was huge,” he said.

“I even missed a couple of putts. I just felt like it was a scrappy round, but I got it out and shot 66 today, so I’m happy.”

Nine players are a further shot behind after shooting rounds of 67, including defending champion Li Haotong and Englishmen Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter.

Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge

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