England’s Matt Fitzpatrick wins US Open with $3.15 million prize
BROOKLINE, Mass. >>Matt Fitzpatrick of England is once again champion at the Country Club, this time with golf’s greatest trophy.
An American amateur champion in 2013. The US Open champion today.
In a three-way battle at Brookline that went to the wire, Fitzpatrick took control with a nice break and an even better shot on the 15th hole for a two-shot swing. He was equally clutching a fairway bunker on the 18 that set par for a 2-under 68.
Victory wasn’t assured until Will Zalatoris, who showed an incredible fight against every error, fell to his knees when his 15-foot birdie putt on 18 just slipped through the left side of the cup. Zalatoris, who closed with a 69, was a runner-up in the second straight major.
Masters champion Scottie Scheffler never recovered from back-to-back bogeys to start the back nine that cost him the lead. He had a 25-foot birdie chance on 18 that narrowly missed and left him behind with a 67.
Along with the $3.15 million in prize money, Fitzpatrick had that gold Jack Nicklaus medal wrapped around his neck, which was fitting.
Fitzpatrick is the second man to win a US Amateur and a US Open on the same course, joining Nicklaus, who pulled it off at Pebble Beach. Juli Inkster won the US Women’s Amateur and the US Women’s Open at Prairie Dunes.
Fitzpatrick, who briefly played at Northwestern before turning pro, won for the eighth time in the world, and it was his first in America — at least a tournament everyone knows about. He won the Bear’s Club membership in Florida earlier this year, the course that Nicklaus built.
“He treated me a little rough at the start of the year. He said, ‘Finally. Congratulations on winning in the United States,'” Fitzpatrick said.
And then slightly lifting the trophy, Fitzpatrick sent a funny message to Nicklaus: “Jack, I won a second time.”
It took a good break, a signature shot and some guts at the end.
Fitzpatrick and Zalatoris were level in the 15th when the Englishman hit his tee shot so far right that he went into the gallery and found a decent lie on some dead, trampled grass. Zalatoris only missed a few yards and was buried in deep grass.
He hit the 5 iron from 220 yards 18 feet below the hole. Zalatoris entered the front bunker, exploded 25 feet and bogeyed. Fitzpatrick took a two-shot lead when his birdie putt entered the cup with such perfect pace that it didn’t even hit the pin it left in the cup.
Zalatoris bounced back again, taking a tough par-3 16th pin from 7 feet for a birdie to cut the lead to one stroke. Both missed birdie chances from 12ft on the 17th and then Fitzpatrick missed a fairway at the wrong time, pulling him left into a bunker with a steep area of rough right ahead of him.
It looked like a playoff was imminent – the previous three US Opens at Brookline have all been decided by a playoff – then Fitzpatrick fearlessly hit a fade with a 9 iron that carried the gaping bunker in front of the green and set himself up at 18 feet.
He narrowly missed and could only watch as Zalatoris missed his last chance.
“Matt’s shot on 18 is probably going to be on display for the rest of US Open history,” Zalatoris said. “I walked by and thought it was going to be cheeky. But the fact that he pulled it off and even got a bird’s eye look was just amazing.
“So hats off to him. He played well all week obviously and had a solid run today.
Fitzpatrick finished at 6 under 134.
Fitzpatrick, 27, the first Englishman since Justin Rose in 2013 to win the US Open, felt his time was approaching. He is meticulous in mapping out his shots and keeping track of each one to identify what needs improvement. And he has emphasized speed in his swing over the past two years, giving him the length and conviction to rival anyone.
That didn’t make Sunday any easier, a three-way race from the start when Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy backed off and never joined the mix.
Fitzpatrick and Zalatoris, who shared the 54-hole lead, each had a two-stroke lead at one point.
Zalatoris, who lost in the playoffs to Justin Thomas in the PGA Championship last month, has recovered from two early bogeys. They were tied when Zalatoris made an 18-foot birdie putt on the par-3 11th short, and Fitzpatrick threw three bogey putts from the same range.
The 25-year-old from Dallas suddenly had a two-stroke lead. He also couldn’t keep the ball in the fairway, and it cost him a knock on the No. 12. And then came another big twist, with Fitzpatrick netting a 50-foot birdie putt on the 13th green. Zalatoris did well to make his 15-footer for par and they headed for the tense conclusion.
Scheffler was still trailing in his bid for a second major this year, but everyone else has become a distant memory. Hideki Matsuyama had the lowest round of the week at 65, but he finished 3-under 277, and that was never going to be good enough.
In the end, it was Fitzpatrick who shared hugs with his family on the green, including his younger brother Alex, who caddyed for him in the US Amateur and recently turned pro.
And there was his caddie, Billy Foster, one of Europe’s most popular and longest-serving loopers who had never been on the sack for a major until Sunday.
“Billy said it for a while to keep doing what you’re doing and luck will come,” Fitzpatrick said. “It did, and I took it.”