Defending Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucia Masters champion Matt Fitzpatrick didn't enjoy a happy return to the DP World Tour event on Thursday, shooting a round of 3-over-par.
The US Open champion won this event last year by three shots, but he started poorly with two bogeys in his opening five holes today. Having started on the back nine at Valderrama, he then double-bogeyed the 18th hole.
The Englishman bounced back with birdies on the 3rd and 6th holes, but he gave those shots back to the course on the 7th and 9th holes. His 74 currently has him eight shots behind four players on 5-under-par.
Fitzpatrick has enjoyed a solid stretch on the DP World Tour in recent months. He, unfortunately, lost in a playoff to Robert MacIntyre at the DS Automobiles Italian Open and he came tied for 22nd at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
"A lot has changed (since the Major win), expectations have changed, thoughts about everything have changed. Since the US Open, I feel like I want to play events that I want to play. I’m going to places where I want to be and enjoy being, and this is a prime example of one of those," he said ahead of the event.
When you drive it 341 yards on the 17th and make eagle #EDAM2022 pic.twitter.com/5nOGegz2Vc— DP World Tour (@DPWorldTour) October 13, 2022
"There are just so many things that make this a tough test. The greens are small, the fairways are tight, trees are everywhere and the wind is swirling. It’s just a real test of everything. There is a bit more importance on driving, if you put the ball in play off the tee you can limit the mistakes.
"The first time I missed the cut and wasn’t driving well, the second time I drove it great and came out with a great result."
He couldn't match the consistency of his brother Alex on Thursday in Spain. He made three birdies and two bogeys on what is just his fifth appearance on the European circuit in 2022.
Alex is four shots behind the leaders on 1-under-par. One of the leaders is Min Woo Lee who came second to Fitzpatrick last year. The Australian made five birdies and a superb eagle on the 17th hole to reach the top of the leaderboard.
Lee is enjoying the Spanish swing on the Tour as he also came third at the acciona Open de Espana behind Jon Rahm. His last win on Tour came at the 2021 Scottish Open.