Major step up for Matt Fitzpatrick as caddie Billy Foster ends years of hurt with US Open win

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·4-min read
Major step up for Matt Fitzpatrick as caddie Billy Foster ends years of hurt with US Open win
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Matt Fitzpatrick has declared he had got “the monkey off his back”, after ending his American hoodoo with a first Major title at the US Open.

The 27-year-old Englishman has regularly been reminded of his failure to win on the PGA Tour, despite tournament success in the US as an amateur. But he broke his duck after a thrilling head-to-head with playing partner Will Zalatoris which went down to the wire and resulted in him winning by a single stroke.

“It’s what you grow up dreaming of winning and I’ve worked so hard for such a long time,” he said. “I had a big monkey on my back of not winning in the US. It was all everybody talked about — and to do it in a Major, there’s nothing better.”

The victory came in spectacular fashion, after Fitzpatrick’s tee shot on the 18th found a fairway bunker. Leading by a stroke but with Zalatoris in prime position and pushing to take the tournament to a play-off, Fitzpatrick produced a moment of magic from the sand, hitting an eight iron 160 yards into the middle of the green. He two-putted and when his American opponent’s birdie attempt shaved the hole, the trophy was his.

It is a first major for both player and caddie. (Getty Images)
It is a first major for both player and caddie. (Getty Images)

It was befitting that the title should come at Brookline. In most golf fans’ eyes, it was the scene of the fractious 1999 Ryder Cup, won by the US. But it was also the course where a fresh-faced Fitzpatrick won the US Amateur title in 2013 — and he had forewarned he was brimming with confidence on his return.

The win put him in esteemed company with Jack Nicklaus as the only men in history to win both the amateur and professional US titles at the same course. “Any time you’re sharing a record with Jack Nicklaus, it’s unbelievable,” Fitzpatrick added. “So for me to have that as

well is incredible. He called me up at the presentation to congratulate me. Coming from someone like that, it means the world.”

Fitzpatrick had suggested his form was good, having finished fifth at the last Major, the US PGA Championship. Then, he had started in a final pairing with Mito Pereira and level on six-under par with, of all people, Zalatoris.

The experience of playing in that final group appeared to have the desired effect, as the Sheffield golfer kept his cool to end his four rounds on six-under again and, crucially, a stroke clear of his playing partner.

The final round turned into a three-way battle at the top of the leaderboard. World No1 and Masters winner Scottie Scheffler got off to a flier to suggest he might clinch a second Major in a matter of a few months. His four birdies over six holes moved him into an immediate lead but, as the round wore on, he could not maintain that run, denying hopes of emulating Tiger Woods as the only player to don a Green Jacket and win the US Open in the same season. But his final-round 67 was enough for a share of second place with countryman Zalatoris.

Matt Fitzpatrick alongside father Russell, brother Alex and mother Susan. (Getty Images)
Matt Fitzpatrick alongside father Russell, brother Alex and mother Susan. (Getty Images)

Zalatoris, a runner-up to Justin Thomas at the US PGA, appeared to initially struggle with the magnitude of the occasion once more, with two early bogeys. But he sparked into life and launched a recovery to move into a two-stroke lead, as both Scheffler and Fitzpatrick stuttered.

Central to Fitzpatrick’s maiden Major win were the 13th and 15th holes. At the former, he landed a 50-foot putt for birdie, and two holes later managed another, while his rival for the title dropped a shot.

It left Fitzpatrick leading by two shots, but an undeterred Zalatoris clawed back a shot with a birdie on the 17th, in contrast to his opposite number’s par, before the drama unfolded from the sand on the last hole.

Rory McIlroy, who had threatened to win his fifth Major — and his first for eight years — was in a position to do just that, with a birdie on the opening hole. But rather than spark the start of one of his trademark storming finales, it proved to be a round littered with errors, and his round of 71 left him in a share for fifth.

This has put a lot of bad memories to bed. I always thought Fitzpatrick was good enough to win a Major.

Fitzpatrick’s caddie Billy Foster could also celebrate a first major victory after more than 30 years of working for Seve Ballesteros, Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke and Thomas Bjorn.

“It means a lot,” Foster said. “Westy, Darren and Seve all had their chances and Thomas Bjorn at Sandwich (2003 Open) really hurt. I thought about it every day for six months. It broke my heart.

“But this has put a lot of bad memories to bed. I always thought he (Fitzpatrick) was good enough to win a Major. This week he has played unbelievably and not putted his best, which says it all.”

Fitzpatrick joins Tony Jacklin (1970) and Justin Rose (2013) as modern-day English winners of the US Open and is the first British winner of a men’s Major since Danny Willett at the 2016 Masters.

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