BROOKLINE, Mass. – For a man who has won seven times on the DP World Tour, Matt Fitzpatrick sure got an ear here in the United States.
Although Fitzpatrick is a very accomplished player, competes often and has participated in two Ryder Cups, he has often been asked if he has not had a win on American soil.
Well, those questions have come to an end.
On some of the country’s most sacred spots in sport, the Englishman dueled Will Zalatoris and Scottie Scheffler on a rough, overcast Sunday at The Country Club to win the 122nd US Open.
After Fitzpatrick took part of the lead with a 50-foot birdie on the 13th and took the lead on the 15th with a 19-foot birdie, Fitzpatrick attempted to win the championship from 18 feet on the last hole — put up by one Brilliant bunker shot from 155 yards – missed on the left. He had to stand to get to the side of the green when Zatoris ordered a birdie putt from 14 feet that would have forced a playoff. But Zalatori’s attempt missed by a hair’s breadth and Fitzpatrick sank into the embrace of his caddy, the legendary Billy Foster.
Welcome to the fraternity of US Open champions, Mr. Fitzpatrick.
“The feeling is out of this world,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s so cliche, but that’s what you dream of as a kid. To achieve that, I can retire tomorrow as a happy man.”
Minutes after claiming his biggest win yet, he received a congratulatory call from Jack Nicklaus, who has become a frequent lunch companion at Florida’s Bear’s Club. Fitzpatrick, 27, who won the 2013 US Amateur here on the course Francis Ouimet made famous in 1913 with his stunning excitement over Ted Ray and Harry Vardon, joined the Golden Bear as the only two players to win the US Amateur and the US Open on the course won same course. Nicklaus did this in 1961 and 1972 at Pebble Beach. Juli Inkster is the only player to win the US Women’s Amateur and US Women’s Open on the same course (Prairie Dunes, 1980, 2002).
“Every time you share a record with Jack Nicklaus, it’s amazing,” Fitzpatrick said. “So it’s incredible that I have that too. He just called me at the presentation down there to congratulate me. Coming from someone like that means the world.”
BRENNAN:A brilliant last-hole bunker shot sealed Fitzpatrick’s historic victory
KISS THE FLAG:Fitzpatrick’s caddy has a special moment after US Open win
SPORT NEWSLETTER:Get the latest news and analysis delivered to your inbox
Fitzpatrick closed with a 2-under par 68 and finished with 6-under. Zlatoris signed for a 69 and Scheffler for a 67 as both finished with a 5 under.
It was another heartbreaking ending for Zatoris, who lost to Justin Thomas in a playoff last month in the PGA Championship. He remains winless on the PGA Tour but is more confident than ever that victory is on the horizon.
“I think this one will probably need a bit more processing than (the PGA),” Zalatoris said. “Like I said, I have no regrets. I thought I had played great all week, especially when I started from the start today.
“It obviously hurts. Obviously, I keep knocking on that door to have three runners-up in my majors career. We’re obviously doing the right things. I’d pay a lot of money for about an inch and a half, and I’d probably be a three-time major champion at this point. We’ll just keep doing what we’re doing.
Scheffler, who has won four times this year, including the Masters, led late into the front nine but was again finished off the course’s shortest hole. After Scheffler got 6 under, he bogeyed a 10 from a faulty drive and then 3-putted the 11th (playing only 108 yards) for bogey. He doubled on the 11th in the third round and followed with three consecutive bogeys. He birdied on the 17th and narrowly missed from 23 feet on the 18th to miss a shot.
“My game is still in good position. Gave me a chance to win the US Open. I did really well today under a lot of pressure. I made some important putts there in the beginning to kind of get going today ‘ Scheffler said. “I just played some quality golf. It just so happened that the putts went around the edge instead of into it. That’s how it felt most of the week. I hit a lot of good putts, and they just weren’t I wouldn’t fall A few breaks here or there, and I’d be the one holding the trophy.
“Hats to Fitzy. He played some really good golf and he definitely deserved to win this event. I don’t know if you guys noticed but I have a feeling he made some extreme improvements off the tee on one issue has of months.”
Former Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama rushed home with the best score of the week, a 65, finishing 3 under.
Two-time Major winner Collin Morikawa hurt his chances of a third-place finish with a 77 on Saturday, but rallied with his second 66 to finish 2-under.
“I hope there won’t be a lot of 7-overs coming in the future, but it kind of made me refocus and just get back into things,” Morikawa said. “Just really start from the tee, get it into the fairway and then take care of it from there.”
Also 2 under was Rory McIlroy, who signed for a 69. The four-time Major winner has now played 29 Majors without winning his fifth.
“Another top five in a major. I don’t think it really means anything,” McIlroy said. “The game is here. The game is here. I have one more start in Hartford next week before I go to the Open Championship.
“I’m going to get a good rest two weeks before the Open and play some links golf and prepare and look forward to it. Again, my game is in good shape. I have one more chance this year to try and get that major. “
Fitzpatrick won his first major in his 26th attempt. He has made a steady climb every year and Sunday’s win put him 10th in the official world golf rankings, his first time breaking the top 10.
He has always worked as hard as possible and looked for unconventional ways to improve his game. Like his cross-hand chipping, which he started earlier this year. Leaving the flagstick in the hole while putting, which he started last year. And he’s always checking his thousands of notebooks, which contain data on every shot he’s ever taken as a pro.
Heading to rounds of 68-70-68-68, Fitzpatrick kept his ball in play most of the time (he usually hit 17 greens in the last round), didn’t do a double bogey (which are killers) all week. Majors) and putted very well throughout.
And he took advantage of the extra length he added to his arsenal.
With each year’s improvement came more opportunities for the dramatic. Like his bunker shot on the 72nd hole.
“It’s one of the best shots I’ve ever made, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “You look at the whole week, the shots you’re hitting and the different times, it’s weird because that’s probably such a huge shot at the moment. If I’m being honest, I look back on my three approaches in 15, 16 and back 17 as all really, really good shots; 18 was kinda just a little hit and hope.
With two country club wins, it now holds a special place in Fitzpatrick’s heart. Whether he’s playing another major here or not, he’ll surely be back.
“I love playing this golf course,” he said. “It suits me so well. It suits my game well. I’ve been playing well for a while and I think it just all came together that this was where it would happen.”
Follow Steve DiMeglio on Twitter @Steve_DiMeglio.