The former US Open winner carded a third-round 67 at Crans-sur-Sierre to leave himself well placed for a third title in the Swiss mountains on 15 under par. That would equal Ballesteros’ record for the most wins in the event, while a now seemingly inevitable top-seven finish will see Fitzpatrick dislodge the absent Tommy Fleetwood on the world points list for a place on Luke Donald’s European team.
Fitzpatrick began the day one ahead of Sweden’s Alexander Bjork and threatened to runaway with it after responding to a bogey at the first with four birdies in his next six holes. Another gain looked to be on the cards at the ninth when an imaginative chip using the backstop travelled round the green and returned to four feet, only for Fitzpatrick to three-putt before finding water off the tee at 13 en route to a double bogey. The 29-year-old Englishman responded with three birdies in his last five holes to lead a chasing pack consisting of Swedes Bjork and Ludvig Aberg and Scotland’s Connor Syme.
“I was really pleased to make sure I was in the mix come Sunday because it could have unravelled,” Fitzpatrick said. “I feel like there’s a lot of things for me this week – I can wrap up Ryder Cup, I can match Seve’s record and win here three times. A win here is always special and my third would be even better.”
In the race to qualify for the Ryder Cup via the European points list, Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre remains on course for a debut appearance in Rome, with his challengers – who all require a top-three finish or better – all outside the top 10.
Syme, who is chasing his maiden DP World Tour win, said: "I absolutely love it up here but I didn’t play great a couple of times," he said. "I missed the cut in the first year and it didn’t work out for me to come back. I was at my friend Richard Mansell’s wedding last week, which changed my schedule to come out and play here. It couldn’t be going better so far."