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How Fitzpatrick set up a stunning Major breakthrough

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Matt Fitzpatrick has become just the fourth English golfer in 52 years to claim a Major. He’s only now becoming a ‘big name’ on tour but rest assured he’ll be no one-hit wonder. Writer Mat Barnes points out how this 27-year-old’s inspirational hard-work story has him poised to do plenty of PGA damage.

Matthew Fitzpatrick strode into new territory on familiar ground this week by producing one of the more memorable final round displays in history, clinching his maiden Major title at the 122nd US Open Championship. In the process, he beat one almighty US contingent of contenders.

Nine years ago Fitzpatrick conquered the world of amateur golf by claiming the US Amateur title as a baby-faced 18-year-old at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts. This week, on the same hallowed turf, the Englishman became just the second male golfer alongside Jack Nicklaus to win the US Amateur and US Open on the same course. Fitzpatrick has come of age, and in a fashion that Nicklaus himself would be proud of.

Beginning the final round tied for the lead with American rising star Will Zalatoris, the pressure and weight of expectation was firmly on Fitzpatrick’s shoulders. Operating on an engine fuelled with memories of younger triumph, crucial lessons learnt from seven worldwide victories, and his first experience playing in the final group of a Major last month. He did not let the moment consume him, compiling a complete 18-hole performance personified by unwavering composure and steely grit.

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His ball striking was phenomenal on a course renowned for smaller targets, producing precise blow after blow on his way to 17 greens in regulation. A magic 5-iron on 15 set up a birdie on the hole where he coincidentally wrapped-up the US Amateur title in 2013. The ensuing ascendancy would never be surrendered, albeit doing it the hard way on the 72nd and final hole. Fitzpatrick clung to a one-shot lead after an impeccable recovery stroke from the fairway bunker, the crispest of 9-irons from a difficult position in the sand. It was a ‘career shot’ played under golf’s most pressured environments, with competitors hot on his heels. Expect replays for years to come. His victory was secured once Zalatoris’ noble attempt at a final-hole birdie grazed the cup and finished behind the hole.

Fitzpatrick’s short game was almost equally as impressive all tournament, ranking third in strokes gained around the green. His unconventional back-handed chipping style has seen him shoot from 138th to 9th in this statistical category on the PGA Tour over the past two seasons. It’s a facet of his game complemented brilliantly by a deft touch with putter in hand. His mammoth 48-foot birdie putt on 13 and clutch birdie roll from 19 feet on 15 are a fitting testament to the countless hours of work he has poured into his short game. 

Perhaps that’s what sums Fitzpatrick up best – hard work. The man who documents every single shot he ever hits, even in social rounds back home with his mates in Sheffield, leaves no stone unturned. It’s a trait synonymous with recent greats of English golf like 2013 US Open champion Justin Rose and six-time Major winner Nick Faldo. Fitzpatrick now joins them and Danny Willett as the only four English golfers to taste Major success over the past 52 years. 

This victory firmly cements Fitzpatrick as one of the world’s elite. He is not a one hit wonder, this performance is one of a bonafide Major champion. At 27 years of age he has the talent, temperament and time to evolve into one of the greats of the game. Fitzpatrick has come of age, and the best is yet to come.

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Mat Barnes
A self-confessed sports nerd who would spit the dummy as a kid on family beach days so he could stay home to watch the cricket - Mat has lived and breathed sport his entire life. Following a three year stint as a Sports Statistician with Fox Sports Australia, he has since enjoyed an extended period in the golf industry helping grow the game he has loved since he was a kid. While Mat loves golf amongst many other sports and codes, his passion for the NRL and the Newcastle Knights is borderline obsessive!

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