Jamie Weir on Matt Fitzpatrick’s US Open win: “You could not wish to meet a more likeable and down-to-earth character”
By Jamie Weir, Sky Sports
Last Updated: 20/06/22 4:14pm
“I cannot think of a more deserving person to have joined golf’s major winner club than Matt Fitzpatrick,” says Sky Sports’ Jamie Weir.
Fitzpatrick won the US Open at Brookline on Sunday night after holding off playing partner Will Zalatoris in a thrilling final round.
Victory puts the 27-year-old from Sheffield in good company after becoming just the second man – after the great Jack Nicklaus – to win the US Amateur and US Open at the same venue.
“His painstaking diligence and dedication to his craft is quite incredible to behold. He leaves no stone unturned in his determination to get better every day. His yardage books are like encyclopaedias; every shot he’s hit – in tournament play, practice rounds, even casual knocks with pals – is jotted down, to refer back to and learn from,” said Weir.
“This year his relentless hard work has paid off, taking his game to an entirely new level. He’s consistently challenged on the PGA Tour, without quite getting one over the line, contended at the PGA Championship and now has landed one of the game’s most coveted titles.
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“The transformation in his game is truly extraordinary. Previously viewed as one of the shorter hitters in golf, he’s now right up there amongst the longer players. I walked nine holes with him on Thursday; he was playing alongside Dustin Johnson – renowned for hitting the ball a country mile – and Fitz outdrove him on several occasions.
“At the monster 15th he was the only player all week I saw drive it over the path which dissects the fairway – some 375 yards off the tee! During the final round many of the game’s big guns – Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm – attempted to drive the green at the short par 4 5th. None of them managed it. Fitz did.
“In his final round, he hit 17 of the 18 greens in regulation. That’s almost unthinkable with the exacting test a US Open always provides and given Brookline’s minuscule greens. Factor in he was in the last group on the final day, with the added pressure that brings, and it will go down as one of THE all-time great final rounds at any major championship. And as for his shot from the fairway bunker at the 72nd hole… that will certainly go down as one of the greatest shots of all time.”
Weir continued: “And all of this just one month on from an experience which may have scarred lesser players; at the PGA Championship in Tulsa, again in the final group on a Sunday at a major, he failed to really get going. It was a day when he clung around gamely but clearly didn’t have his best stuff, as he missed out by a couple of stokes on the ensuing playoff. For many that would have led to self-doubt; will I get another chance? If I do, will I be able to deliver this time?
“The answer to both questions, in Fitz’s case, was yes, and just a few weeks later. The resilience required to not just shrug off that disappointment but use it as fuel to seal the deal at the very next major championship is testament to his mental strength. From his opening tee shot on Sunday until his 68th stroke of the day – a tap-in on the 18th green – this was a different Matt Fitzpatrick. One with the bit between his teeth, fully focused and determined to seize this opportunity.
“But it’s more than just all that. The reason this will be such a popular victory is because of who Fitz is as a person. You could not wish to meet a more likeable and down-to-earth character. He’s humble, self-deprecating and possesses that trademark dry Yorkshire wit. There are no airs and graces about him whatsoever, and this victory may change his life – but it won’t change him one bit.
“On Wednesday of last week, I’d agreed to do an interview with him after he was done practicing. I wandered off, got chatting to some caddies and lost track of time. My phone buzzed in my pocket, a text message from my cameraman Chris: ‘we’re waiting for you!’. I jogged back to the putting green to find Fitz and Chris gabbing away like two old pals, as Fitz had patiently waited a good five minutes. I can assure you the vast majority of players wouldn’t have bothered.”
Discussing Fitz family background, Weir said: “It’s hardly surprising when you meet his family. Fitz is cut from the same cloth as his parents, Russell and Sue; approachable, salt-of-the-earth, inherently decent people. The aforementioned Chris and I walked a few holes with them at the Ryder Cup last September and they’re just so easy to talk to. His brother Alex – who’s very different in terms of his personality, far more extroverted and outwardly confident – worships the ground his big brother walks on. He’s only just starting his professional golfing career, but he couldn’t ask for a better role model to learn from.
“He surrounds himself with good people too. His manager Ted is charming, friendly and so accommodating. Always with a big smile on his face, he’d bend over backwards to help you out. So many in the world of golf are equally delighted for his caddie Billy Foster, a veteran of 40 years who’s worked with some of the game’s greatest players – Tiger Woods, Seve Ballesteros, Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke. To see how emotional he was when it dawned upon him that he’d finally been part of a major-winning team, was a lovely moment.
“The Country Club at Brookline couldn’t have been a more fitting venue. The course itself was wonderful and provided drama and a stacked leaderboard, which included the world’s top three players and a host of major champions. How it took the USGA 34 years to finally bring its Open back there is mystifying, and hopefully the wait for the next one will be far shorter.
“It’s also the venue where, in 1913, caddie Francis Ouimet sensationally won the US Open and in doing so brought golf to the masses in the United States. His impact on the game cannot be underestimated.
“Exactly a century on, the 18-year-old Matt Fitzpatrick won the US Amateur there, a feat rarely achieved by overseas players. And nine years on from that triumph, he’s won the big one – the major which is swiftly becoming a happy hunting ground for European golfers. After Tony Jacklin’s win in 1970 there was a 40-year wait for the next winner from this continent as it eluded greats of the game like Faldo, Ballesteros, Langer and Lyle. Europe has now provided six of the last 13 champions.
“The scenes on Brookline’s 18th green as a visibly stunned Matt Fitzpatrick hugged his mum and dad, his brother and was welcomed to the major club by Rory McIlroy summed up what golf is all about. Those moments of glory when all the hard work and sacrifice has paid off and you’ve followed in the footsteps of legends of the game.”
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Weird added: “Amid the euphoria, Fitz won’t have had a clue what his winner’s cheque was; it was about achieving a lifelong goal, about being able to call himself a major champion, about getting his hands on that stunning trophy and seeing the names Nicklaus, Palmer, Hogan, Jones, Woods and now Fitzpatrick all engraved upon it.
“There are some people intent of tearing the game of golf apart, with scant regard to its history or tradition. One of the most dramatic and thrilling final days in recent major championship history, capped by a shot that will be replayed for many years to come and the crowing of a worthy, humble and fully deserving champion are proof that there are some things money can’t buy.”