BROOKLINE, Mass. – Matt Fitzpatrick of England is another champion at The Country Club, this time with the greatest trophy of all in golf.
A US Amateur Champion in 2013. The Sunday US Open Champion.
In a three-way battle at Brookline that ended to the wire, Fitzpatrick took control with a great break and an even better shot on the 15th hole for a 2-shot swing. He was just as good as a fairway bunker on the 18th that made par for a 2-under 68 shot.
Victory was not certain until Will Zalatoris, who amazingly fought back after each mistake, fell to his knees when his 15-foot birdie putt just slid past the left side of the cup on the 18th. Zlatoris, who graduated at 69, finished second in the second consecutive Major; He lost in a playoff to Justin Thomas in the PGA Championship last month.
Masters champion Scottie Scheffler never recovered from consecutive bogeys to start the back nine that cost him the lead. On the 18th, he had a 25-foot birdie shot that narrowly missed, leaving him with a 67 a shot.
Along with the $3.15 million in prize money, Fitzpatrick had this gold Jack Nicklaus medal around his neck, which was only fitting.
Fitzpatrick is the 13th man to win both the US Amateur and US Open in his career and the second to win both on the same course, along with Nicklaus, who spun the trick at Pebble Beach. July Inkster won the US Women’s Amateur and US Women’s Open at Prairie Dunes.
Fitzpatrick, who briefly played for Northwestern before turning pro, was winning his eighth world game, and it was his first win in America – at least in a tournament everyone knows. Earlier in the year he gained membership at The Bear’s Club in Florida, the course Nicklaus built.
“He scolded me a bit earlier in the year. He said, ‘Finally. Congratulations on winning the States,'” Fitzpatrick said.
And then Fitzpatrick lifted the trophy slightly and sent a funny message to Nicklaus: “Jack, I won a second time.”
Fitzpatrick became the first player since Graeme McDowell in 2010 to earn his first PGA Tour victory at the US Open.
It took a good break, a signature shot and some guts at the end.
Fitzpatrick and Zulatoris were level on points until the 15th when the Englishman hit his tee shot so far to the right that he went to the gallery and found a decent lie on dead and trampled grass. Zalatoris missed him by only a few meters and was buried in deep grass.
Fitzpatrick hit 5-iron from 220 yards to 18 feet under the hole. Zulatoris went into the front bunker, blasted to 25 feet and bogeyed. Fitzpatrick went 2 shots ahead when his birdie putt went into the cup with such perfect pace that he didn’t even touch the pin he left in the cup.
Zatoris rebounded again and took a hard pin on the par-3 16th by 7 feet for birdie to cut the lead on a shot. Both missed 12-foot birdie chances in the 17th, and then Fitzpatrick missed a mistimed fairway and pulled it left into a bunker with a steep stretch of rough right in front of him.
It looked like a playoff would be paramount – the previous three US Opens at Brookline have all been decided by a playoff – and then Fitzpatrick fearlessly hit a fade with a 9-iron that carried the gaping bunker off the green to take 18 Foot settled down a path.
He missed just wide and could only watch as Zatoris missed his last chance.
Fitzpatrick finished with 6 under 134.
The 27-year-old Fitzpatrick, the first Englishman to win the US Open since Justin Rose in 2013 and the youngest player from England to win a major since Tony Jacklin at the US Open in 1970, felt his time was coming would. He meticulously records his shots and keeps a record of everyone to determine what needs editing. And he’s emphasized the speed in his swing over the past two years, which has given him the length and faith to compete with anyone.
That didn’t make Sunday any easier, a three-man race from the start as Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy fell behind and never rejoined the mix.
Fitzpatrick and Zatoris, who shared the 54-hole lead, each held a 2-shot lead at one point.
Scheffler was still hanging around on his bid for a second major that year, but all others became a distant memory. Hideki Matsuyama had the week’s lowest lap at 65, but he ended up 3 under 277 and that was never going to be good enough.
In the end, it was Fitzpatrick who hugged his family on the green, including his younger brother Alex, who caddyed for him with the US amateurs and recently turned pro.
And there was his caddie, Billy Foster, one of the most popular and veteran loopers in Europe who had never been to a major as of Sunday.
“Billy said it for a while to do what you do and the opportunity will come,” Fitzpatrick said. “It did, and I used it.”
ESPN Stats & Information and The Associated Press contributed to this report.