BROOKLINE, Mass. — U.S. Open Sunday left out no drama at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, as England’s Matt Fitzpatrick channeled his inner Francis Ouimet, capturing his first Major Championship, fending off the World’s Number one ranked player Scottie Scheffler, and Major Championship workhorse Will Zalatoris.
Coming into the week it would have been safe to say that Fitzpatrick was not the betting favorite. While being ranked No. 18 (now No. 10) in the world is no slouch over, Fitzpatrick had never won professionally on the PGA Tour in the United States, or that being said, won a major championship.
But something he did have that the rest of the field lacked was experience winning at The Country Club.
Fitzpatrick won the U.S. Amateur at Brookline in 2013, making him just the 13th man to win both a U.S. Amateur and a U.S. Open, and just the second (joining Jack Nicklaus) to win both on the same course. Fitzpatrick was even staying with the same host family that he once stayed with back in 2013.
Fitzpatrick used his experience and knowledge of Brookline to his advantage hitting clutch shot after clutch shot enroute to a final round 68 (2-under), knotting his third 68 of the week to finish the tournament at 6-under par.
And on a Sunday filled with clutch shots by Fitzpatrick, he made sure to give us one more knockout blow on 18, hitting the shot of his life from 156 yards out of The Country Clubs left fairway bunker onto the middle of the green right in front of the Boston crowd.
“One of the best shots I’ve ever hit” Fitzpatrick told the media after his round.
Even Zalatoris, who moments later had a putt on the 18th to tie Fitzpatrick and send the tournament to a playoff, said “To pull that off in that situation is incredible. When they show highlights in future U.S. Opens, that’s a shot that is going to be show. Because that was just awesome.”
It was not just one of the most clutch performances we’ve seen on Sunday in a Major Championship, but one of the greatest ball-striking performances we’ve ever seen in a major championship, as Fitzpatrick managed to hit 17/18 greens on Sunday. In addition to that, Fitzpatrick showed the world that he was able to hang with the big boys, as he refused to give any leeway to Scheffler or his playing partner Zalatoris on Sunday afternoon.
Fitzpatrick made a bomb on the 13th hole to get the momentum going in his favor and tie him for the lead with Zalatoris at 5-under. Zalatoris answered Fitz’s putt with a long par save to keep him tied. Both players managed to par the long par five -14th hole, but the momentum shifted all in favor of Fitzpatrick as both players missed it right of the fairway on 15, with Fitzpatrick’s ball sitting up perfect in the trampled down area of the fans, and Zalatoris’ ball sitting down in the treacherous U.S. Open rough.
Fitzpatrick played a fantastic shot to about 20 feet, while Zalatoris hacked out and eventually bogeyed the hole, failing to get the ball up and down. Fitzpatrick once again made a bomb for birdie to get him to 6-under with three to play and a brief two-shot lead.
With all the drama unfolding on the 15th hole with Fitzpatrick and Zalatoris, a couple holes ahead was Scheffler on the 17th. Scheffler played the 17th beautifully, knocking a wedge to tap-in range to get the Boston crowd back in it for the American. Zalatoris did the same as he bounced back with a beautiful tee shot and birdie on the long par three-16th to get him tied with Scheffler and one behind Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick and Zalatoris both missed makeable birdies on the 17th.
And then on 18, Fitzpatrick missed a fairway at the wrong time.
It looked like a playoff was eminent with Scheffler making par on 18 and Zalatoris in the fairway. The last three U.S. Opens at Brookline all ended in a playoff, until Fitzpatrick hit the shot of his life out of that left fairway bunker.
Fitzpatrick proceeded to two putt, leaving the door open for Zalatoris. Zalatoris just barely missed, falling to his knees in disbelief as the putt grazed the left side of the cup, granting the championship to Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick is just the second non-American to win a major in the last 50 major championships and is the first Englishman to win a U.S. Open since Justin Rose at Merion in 2013. Fitzpatrick shared the memorable win on the 18th with his caddie Billy Foster, one of the most well respected loopers in golf.