Matt Fitzpatrick’s first big win, Phil Mickelson and the biggest takeaways of the 2022 US Open


Matt Fitzpatrick's first big win, Phil Mickelson and the biggest takeaways of the 2022 US Open

BROOKLINE, Mass. – Before Sunday, Englishman Matt Fitzpatrick had never won a professional golf tournament in the United States.

Now he has won two of the world’s biggest golf tournaments on the same course. Nine years after winning the US Amateur at The Country Club outside of Boston, Fitzpatrick earned his first PGA Tour win at the 122nd US Open on Sunday at the same court with a 1-shot win over Will Zlatoris and Masters Champion Scottie Scheffler .

Fitzpatrick is the only male golfer, aside from Jack Nicklaus, to win a US Amateur and a US Open on the same course (Nicklaus won these at Pebble Beach in 1961 and 1972).

Here are five things we learned at the US Open this week:

1. It was Fitzpatrick’s time

Fitzpatrick became the first player to claim his first PGA Tour win in a Major since fellow Englishman Danny Willett won the Masters in 2016. But it’s not like Fitzpatrick hasn’t won before as a pro.

Fitzpatrick, 27, has won seven times on the European Tour (now DP World Tour), including twice at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. He’d been headed in the right direction at majors, with a tie for 14th place at the Masters and a tie for fifth place at the PGA Championship in Southern Hills last month. The Southern Hills performance, perhaps more than any other, proved to Fitzpatrick that he could compete at that level.

“Because it’s a Major, it’s very different than a normal PGA Tour event,” Fitzpatrick said. “At the end of the day, they are very difficult to win. I guess until Southern Hills I really didn’t really appreciate how hard it actually is to win a major. Yeah, I haven’t challenged it, really, until then.

“I think, myself included, and people on the outside might think it’s easier than it is. You just have to look at tigers [Woods]. He blew away so many in such a short time. So I think people are like, ‘Oh, it’s a no-brainer; It’s like a regular tour event.” But it’s not.”

And, of course, Fitzpatrick’s history at the country club offered an edge that others didn’t have. He stayed in the same house with the same host family as at US Amateur 2013.

“I think it gives me an advantage over the others, yes,” Fitzpatrick said the night before the final round. “I really think so. It’s a real, obviously positive moment in my career. It kind of kicked me off.”

2. Rory is the face of the PGA Tour

McIlroy of Northern Ireland again failed to end an eight-year losing streak without a major championship. He’s now 0-for-29 in the majors since winning the 2014 PGA Championship in Valhalla.

McIlroy, 33, was 4 under his way into the country club for the weekend, but nothing ever got going on Saturday and Sunday, at least not until late. He carded birdies in 14th and 15th place but missed good chances on the last two holes.

“It’s not about winning or losing,” said McIlroy, who finished fifth with 2 under. “It’s not like I didn’t play over the weekend. I think looking back, will I remember the fifth place I had at Brookline? Probably not. … I played well enough to giving myself a chance to win I didn’t get the job done but I’m closer to it than I’ve been in a while which is good.

But McIlroy’s best work came earlier in the week when he once again championed the PGA Tour. He criticized younger players who switched to LIV Golf for taking the “easy route”, calling their decisions short-sighted.

“I understand. Yes, because a lot of these guys are in their late 40s,” McIlroy said. “With Philip [Mickelson’s] case, early 1950s. Yes, I think everyone in this room would tell themselves that their best days are behind them. So I don’t understand the guys my age leaving because I want to believe that my best days are still ahead of me and I think theirs are too. So that’s the point where it feels like you’re going the easy way.”

3. The USGA got it right

The country club had not hosted the US Open since 1988 when Curtis Strange defeated Nick Faldo in a playoff. Hopefully the USGA doesn’t wait 34 years to bring it back to the club outside of Boston.

Overall, the golf course and setup have received rave reviews from players. Yes, it was difficult. The wind swirled, the third cut of the rough was ankle deep and the greens were small and tight. Overnight rain and less wind prevented typical Sunday conditions at the US Open from ever developing.

“Aside from the smallest chipping green, I think it was the best course I’ve played in a long time,” said Collin Morikawa on Sunday. “There’s only been a handful of courses that I’ve really set foot on plots of land and you see it for a little while and then you think you’re going to love it, and this was one of them. There is no BS near that. It is a good golf course.

“You really need to get your bearings. You have to think it through. I thought it was a course you could play pretty well on and a course that could hurt your back pretty quickly. I think I got both ends of it, but overall, yeah I loved it.

The USGA has been heavily criticized for court conditions at the US Open in recent years, but kudos for getting them right. Tyrrell Hatton didn’t even complain.

“It obviously rained a bit on the golf course [Saturday], so it was a little busier than it’s been all week, which is probably why you’re seeing some lower scores out on the track,” said Gary Woodland, the 2019 US Open winner. “The wind has eased a bit now. It would have been interesting if we hadn’t rained last night. I think it would have been similar to yesterday. but [Saturday] was what they wanted and that’s what you want in a US Open. It was hard. The conditions were brutal. The golf course is perfectly laid out.”

4. The guys from LIV Golf didn’t have a good week

The run-up to the US Open was all about the ongoing battle for the soul of professional golf between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, with the breakaway circuit spearheaded by former world No. 1 golfer Greg Norman and funded by the Public Investment Fund of funded by Saudi Arabia.

The USGA was put in a difficult position when PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan suspended 17 players last week for attending the inaugural event of LIV Golf outside of London. Some of those players, including Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Kevin Na, had already made it onto the field through exceptions and it wouldn’t have been fair to kick them out afterwards.

When the tournament started on Thursday, however, the LIV Golf roster was no longer a factor. Only four of the 15 players who either competed in the London event or announced they will play the next one in Portland, Oregon have made it to the US Open. None of those who stayed over the weekend played very well. Johnson was the highest finisher with 4 overs. England’s Richard Bland was 8-over, Patrick Reed was 10-over and Bryson DeChambeau was 13-over.

That’s the problem with LIV Golf right now. Outside of Johnson, the majority of players who have bounced off the Tour are either older or a shell of their former selves. Reed has not won since January 2021 and has just two top-10 finishes in 20 starts this season. DeChambeau has not won since March 2021 and is working his way back from left hand surgery. He has only made seven starts this season. It was his seventh consecutive finish outside the top 25 in a Major, the longest such drought of his career.

The PGA Tour-LIV Golf feud isn’t going to end anytime soon. While most of the top players, including Scheffler, Zalatoris, Morikawa and McIlroy, say they are sticking with the Tour, a slow exodus of other players is likely to continue over the next few weeks. LIV Golf is expected to announce the 48-man field for the Portland event earlier this week. There is speculation that some notable players may be among the recent defectors.

5. The fans still love Phil

The USGA couldn’t have been too thrilled that Mickelson won the Masters, the major he loves most, and the PGA Championship, an event he won in 2021 to become the oldest major champion at age 51. skipped. That put the US Open in the crosshairs for Mickelson’s return to competitive golf in the United States.

Although Mickelson’s Monday press conference was somewhat uncomfortable – he skirted the toughest questions – his reception from golf fans was quite welcoming. Sure, there were a few whistles about blood money and betrayal, but overall, Boston sports fans, who have a reputation for being some of the most spirited, were pretty warm about Lefty.

Despite the flattery, Mickelson had to face a stark reality this week. His days of playing golf against the best players in the world are over. Mickelson shot by 11 in the first two rounds, his fifth-worst 36-hole total of his great career. While we may have expected too much from a 52-year-old who hasn’t competed in a round in the US since late January, his best days on the court are clearly visible in the rear-view mirror.

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