31 May 2022

Pete Cowen: USPGA wasn’t great for my players, thank goodness for Matt Fitzpatrick

Having just returned from the USPGA I can honestly say it wasn’t a great Major for my players, thank goodness for Matt Fitzpatrick.

Too many big names got the wrong side of the draw for the opening two rounds, which is why the usual contenders were not there over the weekend. The best example of this was Scottie Scheffler who missed the cut by one and he’s the most in form player of the moment.

But the story had to be Justin Thomas, who like Matt, managed to get on the right side of the draw but to be eight shots back with just 10 holes to play on Sunday was a remarkable achievement.

Matt was understandably disappointed to miss out at Southern Hills but it was his first outing in the final group of a Major, which shows all his hard work is trending in the right direction.

He is leading the Tee to Green stats on the PGA Tour right now and we all know how good he is under pressure with the putter, so it’s only a matter of time before Matt lands his first Major title. Many people easily forget he is still only 27 and ranked 15th in the world, so he should be one of the favourites going into Majors.

Matt’s left hand below right chipping technique is something Mike Walker and I have been advocating for years. It doesn’t imply he has a floored technique or got the yips, it’s just a better technique. I remember when people started putting left below right and it was questioned for the same reasons, now most players putt left hand low. Chipping in this manner allows the club to get under the ball easier, especially on the softer shots. Matt studies everything in the quest to improve his game and lower his scoring. The left hand low chipping change illustrates that, as he was a very good chipper using the conventional method, but he switched to save even more shots around the green.

Ever since he was a kid, he logged every shot he played. That’s not just yardages but all the other variables such as wind and grass conditions. So, he would have done the calculations prior to switching hand positions based on shot efficiency around the greens.

One person that I’ve not seen too much off but really impressed me at the PGA Championship was Cameron Young. He’s another fearless talent that has the whole package. It’s not just about hitting the ball colossal distances off the tee anymore, as all these young lads are long, but the latest wave of college stars appear to have the full skill set but paired with a fearless mindset. They couldn’t care less about the big stars they are up against; their focus is on low scores and winning.

Just look at the US PGA Championship leaderboard on Sunday. Who would have thought Young, Zalatoris and Pereira would be in the top three, the talent pouring out of the Korn Ferry Tour and college system is relentless and winning tournaments is just going to get harder. This will supercharge Jack’s and Tiger’s legacies as their records will go unmatched. Winning Majors is now a young man’s game, players with no fear and no emotional scars or baggage.

Terrific Tiger

Hopefully there might be one exception to that last statement. I shared a buggy with Tiger at Southern Hills going from the range to the clubhouse, as we are both struggling with rehab, although Tiger’s ankle is in worse shape than my aging knees.  He is a remarkable individual and the fact he made the cut on Friday was some feat. The long walk round Southern Hills is hard going for most people, let alone a player battling to come back from a severe ankle injury.  But things are looking better for him as The Open at St Andrews is flat and that ankle will not take the same pounding as it’s had to endure walking around the hills of the last two Major venues.

Tiger has been working around the ankle issue and he’s obviously been focusing hard on his upper body strength, as his ball speed is still up in the 180mph region.

Sometimes fate is written in the stars. This year The Open celebrates it’s 150th anniversary at the Home of Golf and 17 years since Tiger went wire-to-wire to lift his third Claret Jug. So, in front of 300,000 fans, you know that the greatest golfer of modern era will probably do the unthinkable and send the golfing world into melt down. I know that is what he will be planning, as he is all about the winning and beating Jack’s Major haul.

Winning The Open is all about the luck of the draw in terms of weather. If the weather stays calm for all four rounds expect records to tumble and a player might break 60 for the first time!

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