Fitzpatrick wants to improve on last year’s top-10 finish
There are no official records to confirm that Matthew Fitzpatrick is the first English golfer in history to win three European Tour events, finish in the top 10 in the Masters Tournament, compete in the Ryder Cup and still live with his parents.
“I’m not in any rush,” said the 22-year-old of moving into his own place after winning the European Tour’s 2016 season finale in Dubai. “I just want to sort of make sure I find the right place first, and I’m actually looking at buying in America first, rather than home.”
The 2013 U.S. Amateur champion played his first Masters in 2014 at age 19 and left disappointed after missing the cut by a single stroke.
“It’s not the end of the world; life goes on,” Fitzpatrick said after his first Masters experience just months before turning professional. “I think I need to work on the putts. This place, there’s no place like it. You don’t play courses like it every day or every tournament, for that matter. Hopefully I can improve over the next year or so.”
It was easy to suspect that his slight frame – 5-foot-10, 154 pounds – might not be able to generate the power to compete on a course like Augusta National that often favors big hitters. Two years later, however, he returned to the Masters as a top-50 player and appeared to have solved the riddle of Augusta National. Despite ranking 51st of the 57 players who made the cut in driving distance (270.12), he led the field in greens in regulation (75 percent).
Fitzpatrick tied for seventh at even par – only a stroke behind current world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who averaged nearly 30 yards more off the tee.
“A lot of guys are saying I don’t know if he hits it long enough to compete,” Fitzpatrick said after his final-round 67. “And yeah, I was leading the greens in reg after the first two rounds. … And so I think that certainly today I played well enough to shoot 67. And I’m not trying to prove a point, but it maybe just helps me put my mind at rest if I was worried if I belong.”
Fitzpatrick believes the difference in his two appearances at Augusta are as simple as growing up. He didn’t have much expectation when he played as an amateur but used the experience to mature as a competitor.
“I probably just grew as a player,” he said. “Got a bit stronger, started to hit it better. I genuinely don’t think anything changed at all, just think it’s purely growing as a player. It was an amazing experience being able to compete with these guys, and to finish top-10 was fantastic.”
Fitzpatrick suspected when he left Augusta that his performance would be a boost for the rest of his season. His results were a mixed bag for months, wrapping seven missed cuts and distant finishes at the European Tour’s flagship event at Wentworth and the U.S. Open around a victory at the Nordea Masters in Sweden. Consecutive top-10 finishes in August secured him the last automatic berth on Europe’s Ryder Cup team.
He slipped outside the top 50 before his November win at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai – exactly two years after earning his tour card – jumped him back into the top 30. He replaced Nick Faldo as the youngest English golfer to win three events on the European Tour.
“Sort of middle of the season, just before Nordea, I was struggling, and sometimes I just had to sort of sit back and realize how far I’ve come,” he said. “And before Nordea, I had won a tour event, I had played in the Masters and got in the top 50 in the world, and I was 21. There’s not too many people that do that. And obviously to get my third win at 22, yeah, it is a very fast rise.
“Obviously I’ve won the final event of the year, and two years ago, I was just getting on the tour and I was just happy to keep my card. Now I feel like with this win, it gives me confidence to sort of push even further and further.”
Fitzpatrick feels the same way about the Masters as he returns for the third time.
“I want to do better than last year, which is obviously going to be tough,” he said. “That’s the plan is to try and beat it.”