BMW PGA Championship - Day One
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Eleven of the 12 European Ryder Cup participants playing in this week's BMW PGA Championship shot par or better on Day 1 at Wentworth, but it was Matt Fitzpatrick (-6), Ludvig Aberg (-4) and Tyrrell Hatton (-4) who led the way for a team that will square off against the United States in Rome in the 44th edition of the team event later this month.

Aberg is surely feeling himself after being named to the team two weeks ago and opening with 68 to fall into T12, four back of leader Marcus Helligkilde. But it's probably Fitzpatrick and Hatton who will matter more to the European side in Rome.

Hatton needed a good showing following his unexpected missed cut last week at the Irish Open. He put together a nearly-clean card with five birdies and a bogey and is now poised for his first top 10 since the Scottish Open in July. 

Hatton's history at this event is a bit odd. In his last five showings, he has three missed cuts, a T57 and ... a victory (back in 2020). It's not everything, but a nice rebound from last week's bad 75-69 performance would be a good boost going into the Ryder Cup.

Fitzpatrick on the other hand has been stellar of late with three consecutive top 10 finishes. He's the new 5-1 favorite to win this tournament after his 66 on Thursday.

Much of the questioning to all of these golfers following the round pertained to how much they're all thinking about the Ryder Cup. Most said it's hard to not think about it given its magnitude and proximity. Fitzpatrick, though, didn't seem to have that problem.

"It was a good day," Fitzpatrick said after making an astounding eight birdies in Round 1 at Wentworth. "Felt like I played really well. Drove the ball really well. It was an all-around real solid day. 

"I'm here to try and win this week. I'll start focusing for the Ryder Cup once Sunday finishes. This week we're here to have a good week, play as well as we can and see what we can do."

Viktor Hovland (-3), Tommy Fleetwood (-3) and Shane Lowry (-3) are all Ryder Cuppers in the group at 3 under, five back of the leader. Hovland, however, has the second-shortest odds of anyone to win the tournament behind only Fitzpatrick.

He's among the group attempting (and possibly failing) to stay locked in on the tournament at hand.

"I think we are all kind of thinking about the next couple weeks," Hovland said. "We certainly want to play well for this week but we want to make sure that our game is in good shape so that when we get into The Ryder Cup, we can just kind of focus on just playing golf instead of working on stuff. That's not the right time to do it. Certainly, trying to have two thoughts at the same time."

There's a reason he's only 7-1 to win here even though he's five back after 18 holes. That's because he's finished in the top 13 in each of his last four events and finished T5 here a year ago. This is Hovland's first appearance since winning the Tour Championship at the end of August, and he confessed to feeling some rust as he got back in the swing of tournament play.

"Happy with the score," Hovland said. "I didn't play very good today. I started hitting it a little bit better towards the end there but a lot of bad shots today."

Hovland hitting it better towards the end, as we have seen of late on the PGA Tour, could be a problem for the rest of the field.