England’s Matt Fitzpatrick heads into this week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge knowing that a first victory of the season would give his Race to Dubai hopes a welcome boost.
The 25-year-old from Sheffield has won every year on the European Tour since graduating from Qualifying School in 2014, but has only this week in Sun City and next week’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai remaining to try and extend that run.
Five runner-up finishes in 2019 mean Fitzpatrick is fourth in the Race to Dubai standings, 1,149.4 points adrift of leader Bernd Wiesberger – although with 10,000 points on offer at Gary Player Country Club, there is every chance victory would move Fitzpatrick top of the standings.
“I wouldn’t say I feel pressure to win,” Fitzpatrick told the European Tour website.
“I would say pressure to contend. I’m fourth on the Race to Dubai and there’s a chance to win the Race to Dubai still. It’s probably the closest I’ve been so far in my career to winning it.
“Two good weeks and you never know what happens. Obviously without winning either of them, the results have got to go heavily my way but win one of them, it puts me right up there.”
Race to Dubai leader Bernd Wiesberger is also in the field, and with nearest challengers Jon Rahm and Shane Lowry absent, will be looking to extend his advantage at the top of the season-long standings.
The Austrian was ranked only 389th in the world as recently as May before a run of three wins in 13 events and is taking nothing for granted.Bernd Wiesberger is looking to become the first Austrian to be crowned European number one (Kenny Smith/PA)
“Just so many points to be had over the last events again and a lot of things can happen,” he said.
“I’m just looking to be prepared as good as I can. Not looking too much into the ranking and just controlling what I can control.”
Also competing is 2017 European number one Tommy Fleetwood, who like his compatriot Fitzpatrick is chasing a first win of the year.
“If there was a win, then the season would probably look a lot better,” Fleetwood said. “But you know, at the end of the day, that’s kind of what you’re looking for and sometimes that’s out of your hands.
“I feel at times it probably was in my hands and I didn’t finish it off.”
Oosthuizen battles through the pain of kidney stones to lead the way in Sun City
Paul Dunne withdraws from final stage of European Tour qualifying school
Europe captain Catriona Matthew targets historic Solheim Cup win in Ohio
Catriona Matthew to captain Europe again in 2021 Solheim Cup