There may be plans for a Matt Fitzpatrick statue in Brookline as of Monday morning. Success at both the US Amateur Championship and the US Open at the country club now within Fitzpatrick’s reach would be quite an achievement.
Fitzpatrick, who weathered a tumultuous Sunday at the US PGA Championship last month, is eager to chase glory in his next big start. The Yorkshireman, whose amateur win came at this illustrious venue in 2013, will start day four with a tie for the lead. On four under par, Fitzpatrick has Will Zulatoris for company. History favors Fitzpatrick.
To his credit, Fitzpatrick spoke confidently about the fallout from nine years ago. “I definitely think it gives me an advantage over the others, yes,” he said. “I really think so. It’s a really positive moment in my career. It kind of cheered me on.
“Coming back here and playing so well again gives me more confidence from round to round.”
Jon Rahm had hit the 18th tee at five under par. Bunker problems followed – and a double bogey. The defending champion’s one-over par 71 means he trails the leading duo by one.
Zlatoris was even closer to a US PGA win than Fitzpatrick after losing to Justin Thomas in the playoffs in Southern Hills. A 67 for Zalatoris was the third day’s performance. Curiously, the 25-year-old has five top-10 finishes from seven major starts but is yet to win a Mainstream Tour event.
“The US PGA has given me a lot of trust and confidence that I belong in this situation,” said Zalatoris. “It’s a difference between thinking it and then actually being in the situation and believing it. So I think that’s probably the biggest change. This US PGA really made me feel like I could be one of the world class players.”
Rory McIlroy’s 73 left him three off the lead and still very much in touch. The wild nature of the US Open was emphasized by Scottie Scheffler, who holed out on an eagle on the 8th, giving him a two-stroke lead at six-under. On the 15th tee, world number 1 was minus one. Scheffler finished with two under after a 71. Adam Hadwin and Keegan Bradley have the same score.
The frustrations associated with a typically fierce US Open setup were embodied in Thomas’ behavior. The US PGA Champion’s ball came to rest inches from a drain in the center of the 4th fairway. Thomas would have received free relief if the drain affected his stance or the line of his swing; A referee ruled that neither was applied.
Thomas made his irritation perfectly clear while slandering how many of his fellow cast members would have behaved had they been put in the same film.
“That’s what pisses me off,” Thomas told his caddy Jim “Bones” Mackay. “So many other people would lie about being able to beat that, but it’s just like, ‘I’m not going to beat it.’ That’s fucking bullshit, man.” Thomas threw his bat away to be safe.
After signing for a 72, which left him at plus three, Thomas explained the situation. “For me it was around a drain and my stance and my ball were clearly different than if that drain weren’t there,” he said. “I called an official to get a decision on this and in the spirit of the game I didn’t want to go down the drain. I felt like I could have very easily told her I was leaving and gotten a free drop, but I didn’t.
“It’s unfortunate because it was a great drive and I had a pitching wedge in my hands. I could only hit the ball 100 yards. I mean, it’s very clear that my stance and where my ball was was changed because of that drain and was sitting poorly, but I didn’t get a drop of it. That’s just how it is. You have to be able to hit the drain to get a drop.”
In a statement, the United States Golf Association said: “During the discussion Justin was asked if the drain would affect his swing to which he replied that it would not. Since there was no interference from the drain, Justin was not given any relief. Rule 16.1a(1) states that interference from an immovable obstacle occurs when the ball touches or is in or on the hazard, or when the hazard physically interferes with the player’s intended stance area or intended swing area. The rule further states that if the obstacle is close enough to distract the player but does not otherwise interfere, there is no relief under the rule.”
Thomas won’t feel like he’s completely without hope of claiming two majors in a row. Justin Rose’s race seems almost over after a 74 put him back up to plus five. Brooks Koepka’s 75 means he has matched Rose’s 54-hole total.