Embed from Getty ImagesIf you watched on Sunday, then you probably agree that it was a great finish to the U.S. Open at The Country Club. Three young players battled down the stretch — only one of them a major winner — all hitting terrific shots under U.S. Open pressure and all having a chance to the end. Following is a portion of the USGA recap of the final round, provided to media via email.
MATT FITZPATRICK IS A CHAMPION once again at The Country Club.
The 27-year-old Englishman who triumphed nine years ago at this iconic venue when he claimed the U.S. Amateur, became just the 13th man and the first non-American to also add the U.S. Open Championship to his portfolio.
In winning the 122nd edition of the championship on a chilly New England Sunday by one stroke over past U.S. Junior Amateur champions Will Zalatoris and Scottie Scheffler, Fitzpatrick joined World Golf Hall of Famer and 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus as the only golfers to have won the USGA’s two oldest championships at the same venue. Nicklaus accomplished his feat at Pebble Beach Golf Links in 1961 and 1972.
Now 50 years later, Fitzpatrick put himself in rarified company.
“The feeling’s out of this world,” said Fitzpatrick, who carded a final-round 68 for a 6-under total of 274. “It is so cliche, but it’s stuff you dream of as a kid. I can retire a happy man tomorrow.
“Any time you’re sharing a record with Jack Nicklaus, it’s unbelievable. So for me to have that as well is incredible. He called me up down there just at the presentation to congratulate me. Coming from someone like that, it means the world.”
Fitzpatrick put on a ball-striking clinic on Sunday, hitting 17 of 18 greens. The only miss was on the 503-yard 10th, a hole the members play as a par 5 that was statistically the championship’s toughest (4.39). Trailing Zalatoris by one, Fitzpatrick’s fortunes changed at the par-4 13th when he converted a 49-footer for birdie.
When Fitzpatrick won the 2013 U.S. Amateur title at this venerable venue – one of the five founding clubs of the USGA – he closed out Oliver Goss of Australia on the 15th hole, and he essentially won the U.S. Open on the same hole, making a 19-foot birdie after reaching the green with a 220-yard 5-iron from a spot in the right rough where spectators had matted the turf down.
“It was one of the best shots I hit all day,” he said. “To do that and take advantage of the break I had was fantastic.”
Zalatoris, whose tee shot on No. 15 landed in thick rough, failed to get up and down from a greenside bunker. That gave Fitzpatrick a two-stroke cushion with three to play, and the cool customer from Sheffield closed with three consecutive pars. On the par-4 18th, a hole he bogeyed on Saturday, Fitzpatrick reached the putting surface from a left fairway bunker, a play some thought was risky.
Zalatoris had one final chance to force a two-hole aggregate playoff, but his 15-foot putt on the 18th green burned the left edge of the hole. It was his second consecutive runner-up finish in a major, having lost a three-hole aggregate playoff to Justin Thomas at last month’s PGA Championship.
“Matt’s shot on 18 is going to be shown probably for the rest of U.S. Open history,” said Zalatoris. “I walked by it, and I thought that going for [the green] was going to be [gutsy], but the fact that he pulled it off and even had a birdie look was just incredible. So hats off to him. He played great all week.”
Once the championship was secured, Fitzpatrick first celebrated with his caddie, Billy Foster, and then his parents and younger brother, Alex, who was his caddie here nine years ago. Alex just completed his eligibility at Wake Forest, where Zalatoris played on an Arnold Palmer Scholarship. Fitzpatrick also was embraced by TCC member Will Fulton, with whom he stayed nine years ago and again this week. Fulton was the club’s general chairman for the U.S. Open.
“I love playing this golf course,” said Fitzpatrick. “It suits me so well. It suits my game well. I’ve been playing well for a while, and I think it all just fell into place that this was the place it was going to happen.”