Matt Fitzpatrick: Man of Steel Smiling all the Way to the Bank

Having followed the fortunes of Matt Fitzpatrick from his promising amateur career through his time on the European Challenge Tour to earning his European Tour card at Q-School for the 2015 season, back in May of this year, Worldwide Golf spoke to the 22- year-old about ‘steadily fulfilling his potential.’

Fast-forward six months and we can heartily sing his praises in full voice after he won the DP World Tour Championship in the style of a true champion thanks to a steely display of courage and deftness.

With a splash of sand and a testing 4-foot birdie putt on the final hole on the Earth course at Jumeirah Golf Estates, Fitzpatrick closed the door on fellow youngster Tyrrell Hatton to clinch the biggest title of his fledgling career to date.

“It’s the most I’ve shaken over a putt in…well, forever!” said Fitzpatrick, with his now famous broad smile, after banking $1,683,300 in prize money ($1,333,300 for winning the DP World Tour Championship; plus $350,000 for finishing sixth in the Race to Dubai Bonus Pool).

Asked about the contrast with the ‘Mr. Cool’ image he has perfected, he commented: “I surprised myself. I’m normally sort of okay with my nerves, but yeah, it was a tough one.”

The likeable Yorkshireman from Sheffield, the City of Steel in the North of England, has been holing putts with no sign of nerves since taking up the game as a youngster, and his journey from those humble beginnings to becoming DP World Tour Championship winner has been eventful and record-breaking.

There has been expert help along the way, and Fitzpatrick is quick to heap praise on those who deserve it most. “Working with Mike Walker and Pete Cowen has made the difference. I believe they are the best coaches in the world for multiple reasons. Obviously, I’m biased but it’s not just what they teach regarding the game of golf but general life-coaching. I wouldn’t be here without them, certainly not playing the standard of golf that I’m playing anyway.

matt-family“I’m also so grateful for what my Mum and Dad have done for me for them taking me here, there and everywhere to competitions and spending a lot of money to get me to places. They have funded everything for me so a special mention would be to those two.”

Fitzpatrick had shown tremendous promise as an amateur, winning the Boys Amateur Championship in 2012 and then having a superb year in 2013. He won Low Amateur honours at The Open at Muirfield and one month later he became the first Englishman to win the US Amateur in over 100 years at Brookline CC in Boston.

It was a victory that launched him to the top of the World Amateur Golf Rankings and earned him an invitation to the following year’s Masters Tournament and US Open. At Augusta he was rubbing shoulders with the great and the good, playing alongside Major champions Adam Scott and Jason Dufner as he narrowly missed the cut by one stroke.

Three months later he found himself in the company of Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson for the first two rounds at Pinehurst and made the cut, finishing in a share of 48th to win Low Amateur honours in a Major for the second time in his fast-blossoming career.

He decided to turn professional shortly after and made his debut at the Irish Open. A few appearances on the Challenge Tour towards the end of the season prepared him for a trip to Qualifying School and he duly earned his card for the 2015 European Tour season, finishing in 11th place in the Final Qualifying Stage in Spain.

Buoyed by his progress, Fitzpatrick won his maiden title in sublime fashion towards the end of 2015, with a wire-to-wire victory at the British Masters supported by Sky Sports at Woburn. He continued his good form with a share of fourth place at the DP World Tour Championship and that helped him end his rookie campaign in 12th place in the Race to Dubai rankings.

His British Masters win propelled him straight into Ryder Cup reckoning and throughout the qualification process he never lost his place in the team – such was his high level of consistency and ability to deal with pressure – eventually qualifying as the eighth ranked player.

He returned to Augusta National earlier this year and finished in a share of seventh place – his career best finish in a Major. He added a second title to his C.V. with a win at the Nordea Masters in Sweden in June. That victory cemented his place firmly in Darren Clarke’s Ryder Cup side where he found himself playing alongside many of his idols growing up.

Despite Europe’s tough defeat to the United States at Hazeltine, Fitzpatrick was quick to turn the disappointment into a positive, focussing his attention on a strong finish to 2016.

After two rounds over the Earth course in Dubai he was three shots back with consecutive 69s. He moved up the leaderboard with a third round 66 and sealed the deal with a final round 67 – exactly two years to the day when he first secured his European Tour playing rights.

“It’s crazy to think that I was just earning my Tour card two years ago,” he said. “I’ve won the final event of the year, and two years ago, I was just getting on the Tour and I was happy to keep my card.

“Now I feel this win gives me confidence to push even further and further ahead, keep working hard, doing the right things, and I’ll see what we can do next year.”

 matt is joined by coaches pete cowen and mike walker (
COACH PETE COWEN ON FITZPATRICK: 
You always want to work with a kid who’s got a bit of street fighter in him. That’s what you need. Matt is the ideal example. He’s got that look in his eye. He’s a born competitor. He doesn’t know stage fright. He can play under immense pressure without feeling a thing. You can’t teach that. It has to be in them. You’ve just got to find it and bring it out.”

 


Fitzpatrick became the first amateur since the legendary Bobby Jones in 1930 to hold Low Amateur honours at The Open and the US Open at the same time. 


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Fitzpatrick is the youngest Englishman to win three European Tour titles. At the age of 22 years and 60 days, Fitzpatrick beat the previous best of Sir Nick Faldo, who was 22 years and 300 days when he won his third title in 1980.


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