Cameron Morfit / PGATOUR.COM
BROOKLINE, MA – Matt Fitzpatrick keeps meticulous tabs on his career, charting every shot he takes, but stats can’t explain everything. Not in golf, and especially not at The Country Club.
This is where Francis Ouimet, a 20-year-old amateur who grew up across the street, beat two of the world’s best players at the 1913 U.S. Open. It’s where Ben Crenshaw’s 1999 Ryder Cup team trailed 10-6 and he said, “I’m a big believer in fate; I have a good feeling about tomorrow.” His words preceded a record-setting comeback by his squad.
On Saturday night, with a share of the lead and preparing to go into the biggest round of his life, England’s normally soft-spoken Fitzpatrick, who won the 2013 U.S. Amateur at The Country Club with his kid brother, Alex, on the bag, delivered a line that was so Crenshaw-like with portent the only thing missing was the pizza shirt.
“I certainly think it gives me an edge over the others, yeah,” Fitzpatrick said of the long-ago week that kick-started his career. “I genuinely do believe that.”
Like Crenshaw, he was right. On the same turf where he experienced the awakening of his career, he savored another, grander victory, carding a final-round 68 to win the U.S. Open by one over Scottie Scheffler (67) and Will Zalatoris (69). It was Fitzpatrick’s first PGA TOUR win, and he becomes the 13th player and first non-American to win the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open. He’s also the second, after Jack Nicklaus at Pebble Beach, to win both at the same course.
Zalatoris, who lost playoffs at the Farmers Insurance Open (Luke List) and PGA Championship (Justin Thomas) earlier this season, and who also was seeking his first TOUR win, had a birdie putt on 18 to force a playoff, but it burned the left edge. Billy Foster, Fitzpatrick’s caddie who had never won a major, tugged his cap down over his face. Fitzpatrick hugged him before moving on to his mother, brother, and father. He laughed and wiped away tears.
“It’s a long week,” he said. “I said to Billy going up 14, I said, ‘Billy, I hate this. This is horrible (laughter).’ And up to that point really, I’d really not missed many shots.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am it’s over,” he continued, “but at the same time, I can’t tell you how happy I am, how well I’ve grinded out there and how well I played. It means so much.”
Fitzpatrick’s 17 top-10s without a win were the most on TOUR since the start of the 2019-20 season. Zalatoris, with 16, now moves to the top of that list. Fitzpatrick is the first player since Danny Willett at the 2016 Masters to notch his first TOUR win at a major.
Was it force of habit? Fitzpatrick has twice won the Omega European Masters in Switzerland, twice won the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, and now twice won on this hallowed turf outside Boston, which grew blustery and decidedly chilly for the weekend rounds.
Or was it fate? The relationship between a player and a golf course can mean more than meets the eye. Jon Rahm captured the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, the site of his first TOUR win and not far from the hiking trails where he proposed to his wife.
“We each took the same bedrooms,” Susan said, adding that she, too, is a big believer in fate.
Then again, there were some new wrinkles.
“Matt had a chef from Sheffield who’s been with us for a couple of tournaments,” Susan said. “There’s so much work that goes into golf; I don’t think anybody quite realizes. I’m not a numbers person at all. It amazes me how he does it.”
Determined not to miss the moment, Alex woke up at 5 a.m. Sunday and flew back to Boston.
“There’s two ways you could look at it, really,” he said, when asked if there was something fated about Matt Fitzpatrick and The Country Club. “At the start of the week people were expecting him to go out and win because of what happened in 2013. You could take it as pressure, who knows how it’s going to go, but he stayed calm and had a good game plan.
“I didn’t think I would cry, but I ended up crying,” he added. “That’s going to look bad on TV. I’ve said for a long time he deserves one more than anyone I can think of. If I showed you how hard he works and the things he does to get better, it would blow your mind, honestly. I guess there is such thing as golf gods, but for it to happen here is extra special.”
The final hurdle for Fitzpatrick, having driven into the fairway bunker on 18, was clearing the lip that had thwarted Jon Rahm the day before. He took out a 9-iron and caught the ball flush, clearing the lip and pelting the green for a two-putt par.
He charted all those shots, got longer off the tee after watching others bludgeon courses into submission, and drew on the lessons learned from being in the final group Sunday at the PGA Championship last month, when he tied for fifth.
That The Country Club felt like home was the final puzzle piece. Same town. Same course. Same bedroom.
“Know where to hit it; know where to miss it,” he said. “Yeah, just happy to be unbeaten around this place.”
CANADIAN NOTES: Adam Hadwin was in the mix on Sunday afternoon and finished T7. Mackenzie Hughes finished T24. Corey Conners, Nick Taylor, Ben Silverman and Roger Sloan missed the cut.