BROOKLINE, Mass. ( Associated Press) – The playoffs were looming on Sunday at the US Open, just as always at The Country Club, when Matt Fitzpatrick hit his shot from the bunker to the left of the 18th fairway.
He had an advantage of one shot over Villa Zalatoris and Masters champion Scotty Scheffler. He had much of the rough-filled lawn in front of him, along with a gaping bunker protecting the greenery and a flag 156 yards away. Nothing less than a title at the US Open was next.
On the last nine filled with clutch moments, Fitzpatrick provided the greatest of all.
“One of the best shots I’ve ever hit,” he said.
Fitzpatrick hit the 9-iron that started around the steep lip – “squeezing”, as he called it – took the front bunker and settled 18 feet away, setting the pair for 2-under 68 which made the Englishman the main champion for his first professional victory in America.
He won the US Amateur Tournament in Brooklyn in 2013, making him only the second man to win the US Amateur and the US Open on the same track. Jack Nicklaus, the name on the winner’s gold medal hung around his neck, turned the trick on Pebble Beach. Julie Inkster won the U.S. Women’s Amateur and Women’s Open at the Prairie Dunes.
“The feeling is not from this world,” said Fitzpatrick. “It’s such a cliché, but it’s something you dream about as a child. Yes, to achieve that, I can retire a happy man tomorrow. “
Zalatoris, with exceptional resilience during the tense battle near Brooklyn, had a 15-foot bird to extort the playoffs. He fell to his knees when the blow slipped near the left edge of the cup. He hit 69 and was the runner-up for the third time in the last seven emails.
Zalatoris and Scheffler, who previously had a long bird’s eye view to catch up with Fitzpatrick, did everything they could. Fitzpatrick was convinced that his time was coming, and he grabbed it.
“Met’s kick on the 18th will probably be shown until the end of the history of the US Open,” said Zalatoris. “I passed by him and I thought it would be rude. But the fact that he pulled it out and even looked like a birdie was just amazing.
“So, hats off to him. He obviously played great all week, and today he played a solid round. “
The celebration was famous. Fitzpatrick hugged his parents and his younger brother Alex, who played in the Amateur, in tears. He stayed in the same family.
The payout was $ 3.15 million and the title – the main champion – which money cannot buy.
One of the first phone calls came from Niklaus, a four-time US Open champion. It turned out that Fitzpatrick won a membership in The Bear’s Club – a track that Niklaus built in South Florida – and what the Golden Bear said that day has not been forgotten.
“He abused me a little at the beginning of the year. He said, ‘Finally. “Congratulations on your victory in the United States,” said Fitzpatrick. And then, lifting the trophy slightly, Fitzpatrick sent an amusing message to Niklaus: “Jack, I won the second time.”
It took a good break, a recognizable punch and a little courage at the end.
Fitzpatrick and Zalatoris were tied until the 15th when the Englishman hit his tee kick so far to the right that he entered the gallery and found a decent lie on the grass that was dead and trampled. Zalatoris missed just a few feet and was buried in deep grass.
“I feel like we had moments all year when I just didn’t take a break, I just didn’t lie, I just didn’t have a bounce. This time I get there and the ball stands perfectly “, said Fitzpatrick. “It was one of the best hits I’ve hit all day.”
He broke a 5-iron from 220 yards to 18 feet below the hole. Zalatoris entered the front bunker, exploded at 25 feet and made a specter. Fitzpatrick took the lead with two shots when his bird strike entered the cup at such a perfect pace that he did not even touch the needle he had left in the cup.
“It was fantastic to do that and take advantage of the break I had,” said Fitzpatrick.
Zalatoris bounced again, catching a solid needle on par-3 from 16 to 7 feet to give the bird a one-shot advantage. They both missed a 12-foot birdie chance on the 17th, and then Fitzpatrick missed the fairway at the wrong time. It seemed as if the playoffs were eminent – the previous three US Open in Brooklyn were decided by the playoffs – until his life’s blow.
Fitzpatrick finished 6-under 274. He became the first Englishman after Justin Rose in 2013 to win the US Open, and he felt his time was coming.
He is meticulous in planning his recordings and keeps records of all of them in order to identify what needs to be done. And he has emphasized speed in his swing in the last two years, giving him the length and confidence to compete with anyone.
That didn’t make Sunday any easier, a race with three from the start when Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy fell back and never joined the mix again.
Fitzpatrick and Zalatoris, who shared an advantage of 54 holes, at one point had an advantage of two shots.
Zalatoris, who lost in the playoffs to Justin Thomas in the PGA championship last month, has recovered from two ghosts. They were tied when Zalatoris made an 18-foot birdie putt on a short par-3 11, and Ficpatrick made a three-way for bogey from the same range.
The 25-year-old from Dallas suddenly had a two-shot advantage. He also couldn’t keep the ball in the fairway, and that cost him a shot with the ball at number 12. And then another big turning point followed, when Fitzpatrick scored a 50-foot birdie putt over the 13th court. Zalatoris did well to make their 15-footer for the pair and they headed towards a tense conclusion.
Hideki Matsuiama had the lowest round of the week at 65, but finished at 3-below 277, and that will never be good enough. McIlroy was 69 and finished in the group with four shots behind with Colin Morikawa (66).
Fitzpatrick couldn’t stop laughing as he carried the silver trophy, big and silver and shiny like the American Amateur Award, only far more significant. And it was another shocking moment in the end. His caddy, Billy Foster, one of the longest and most popular loopers in Europe, took the flag off the 18th needle. It’s his trophy.
“Billy said that for a while to continue doing what you are doing and the opportunity will come,” Fitzpatrick said. “It worked, and I took it.”
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