June 22, 2024

How underdog Fitzpatrick plotted for maiden US Open victory

How underdog Fitzpatrick plotted for maiden US Open victory

England’s Matt Fitzpatrick captured his first major title on Sunday by winning the US Open in dramatic fashion, making spectacular shots as rivals crumbled under final-round pressure. After a thrilling three-man fight down the back nine at The Country Club, Fitzpatrick fired a two-under-par 68 to finish on six-under-par 274 and defeated Americans Scottie Scheffler and Will Zalatoris by one stroke.

With perseverance, Fitzpatrick delivered his first professional US victory for a long-sought major trophy. “It’s what you grow up dreaming of,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s something I’ve worked so hard for such a long time. There was a big monkey on my back trying to win over here and everyone, all they ever talked about was that. To do it as a major for my first win -– there’s nothing better.”

World number 18 Fitzpatrick, who won the 2013 US Amateur at The Country Club, matched Jack Nicklaus as the only US Open and US Amateur winners on the same course, the US legend doing the double at Pebble Beach. “It means the world,” Fitzpatrick said of the achievement.

Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, the 2021 Masters champion, fired the best round of the week, a bogey-free 65, to finish fourth on three-under 277. Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy and two-time major champion Collin Morikawa shared fifth on 278 while second-ranked Spaniard Jon Rahm, the defending champion, shared 12th on 281 after a closing 74.

Matt Fitzpatrick (2nd R) poses with the U.S. Open Championship trophy alongside father Russell (L), brother Alex (2nd L) and mother Susan (R). (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images/AFP)

Fitzpatrick endured epic pressure and hit the shot of his life when it mattered most. The 27-year-old blasted a stunning 9-iron from a left fairway bunker onto the 18th green and two-putted for par from 18 feet to capture his first major title. “It’s one of the best shots I ever hit. There’s no doubt about it,” he said. “That probably is such a huge shot in the moment. The feeling is out of this world. It’s stuff you dream of as a kid. To achieve it, I can retire a happy man tomorrow,” said the player from Sheffield, who shared fifth last month at the PGA Championship for his best prior major result.

Fitzpatrick credits his upbringing with developing the work ethic and discipline that paid off with a dream come true at The Country Club. “I feel like I’m the same deal. Not expected to do well, not expected to succeed. I’ve won a major today. I feel like I certainly work hard for it, and that’s kind of where I’ve grown up from is that’s the mentality of everyone around there. It’s certainly like underdog mentality and you work for what you get,” he said.

For the past two years, part of that effort has been a fitness training program that has him hitting longer off the tee. “Since I’ve been hard on it from the start this year, I’ve noticed an even bigger jump without really feeling like I’m going after it,” Fitzpatrick said.

Billy Foster, Fitzpatrick’s caddie, lines up a putt on the 15th hole during the final round of the 2022 U.S. Open. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images/AFP).

Fitzpatrick’s caddie, Billy Foster, is finally the bagman for a major champion after 40 years carrying clubs for such stars as Seve Ballesteros, Lee Westwood, Thomas Bjorn and Darren Clarke. “It means the world to Billy. It’s unbelievable. I know it’s something he’s wanted for a long, long time. To do it today is incredible. We ended up working together. I was kind of in between caddies. He just split up with Lee, and just happened to work out,” said Fitzpatrick.

It was Foster who recognized the improvements in Fitzpatrick’s game and his knowledge of The Country Club could come together into a breakthrough major triumph. “Billy had been saying for a while, the time will come. You’re playing so well. Just keep doing what you’re doing. I put myself in position after two rounds and then played well yesterday. I just really believed this could be the time. Because of my success here before, it just felt like this was the time. It all just fell into place that this was the place it was going to happen,” said Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick says that it takes six major wins to be a legend. “I’ve got a bit of a way to go, but it’s a good start. I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing and hopefully more will come. “I’m delighted with one so far,” he said.


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