Sports gamblers learned an important lesson on Sunday: don’t bet against Matt Fitzpatrick at Brookline.
Courtesy of an immaculate tee-to-green display and an all-time clutch shot from a fairway bunker on the 72nd hole, the 27-year-old Englishman won the 122nd U.S. Open, held at The Country Club in the Boston, Massachusetts area.
It was the first professional PGA Tour win for Fitzpatrick, although it was not the first time he’d tasted success at Brookline: he won the 2013 U.S. Amateur, which was held at The Country Club, giving him the kind of course history that no one else in the field had. In men’s golf history, only the legendary Jack Nicklaus had won the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur on the same course. Fitzpatrick is the first from outside the United States to accomplish that feat.
Fitzpatrick was the last survivor in difficult conditions, in an event that prides itself on being the toughest test in golf. After all the carnage, his final score of 6-under-par gave him a one stroke victory over world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and major leaderboard addict Will Zalatoris.
Through 54 holes, Fitzpatrick was tied at 4-under with Zalatoris, setting up an interesting dynamic for the final Sunday pairing. Fitzpatrick had yet to win a Tour event, despite many close calls and seven career victories on the European Tour. Zalatoris, too, was looking for his first Tour victory. The 25-year-old American has regularly been in major contention in his short career: he has six top-10s in just eight major starts since turning professional, and one of those two misses was a tournament he was forced to withdraw from. Among those top-10s were solo runner-up finishes at the 2021 Masters, and at last month’s PGA Championship, where he narrowly lost in a three-hole aggregate playoff against 15-time Tour winner Justin Thomas.
Early on however, the attention shifted to Scheffler, the reigning Masters champion, who has recorded five victories in a career 2022 season. Beginning the final day two strokes behind Fitzpatrick and Zalatoris, Scheffler birdied one and two to tie the lead.
Zalatoris carded a pair of early bogeys on 2 and 3, and for a time, it appeared fans at the Boston-area event were going to be witness to a Sunday duel between the world No. 1 and the world No. 18.
However, Zalatoris would bounce back, and after birdies on 6, 7, and 9, he found himself just one back of Fitzpatrick and Scheffler at the turn. After both Fitzpatrick and Scheffler bogeyed the par-4 10th, it was suddenly a three-way tie atop the leaderboard.
Things went even more in Zalatoris’ favor after Fitzpatrick and Scheffler both added bogeys at the par-3 11th, which Zalatoris birdied, and suddenly had a two stroke lead at six-under.
A two-stroke swing again occurred a short time later. Zalatoris bogeyed 12, and Fitzpatrick was able to re-tie the lead when he sunk a 50-foot birdie putt on 13, which showed tremendous pace.
As the three fought for U.S. Open glory, suddenly a fourth contender found their way into the mix. Hideki Matsuyama, the man Zalatoris finished runner-up to at the 2021 Masters, made up five strokes between the sixth and 16th holes. After a par-par finish, a field-low bogey-free 65 had the Japanese superstar in the clubhouse at 3-under, giving the three leaders something to think about.
While the clubhouse lead surely got their attention, Matsuyama did not stay relevant for long. After a birdie from Fitzpatrick on 15, a birdie from Zalatoris on 16, and a birdie from Scheffler on 17, the scene was set for the 72nd hole: Fitzpatrick was at 6-under with Scheffler and Zalatoris one back.
Then, with one swing from the tee box, chaos nearly ensued again, similar to last month’s PGA Championship, when Mito Pereira drove into trouble while holding the 71-hole lead. Fitzpatrick’s tee shot sailed well left, landing in a fairway bunker shortly behind thick fescue. Facing the reality that his U.S. Open dream was suddenly in jeopardy, Fitzpatrick, known for his tireless work ethic, calmly landed his approach from the sand to 18 feet. From the fairway, Zalatoris landed four feet closer.
Looking especially cautious, Fitzpatrick’s downhill putt did not quite get to the hole, but he was able to tap in for par, and a round of 2-under 68, eliminated Scheffler from the championship mix. Zalatoris’ attempt to tie Fitzpatrick just barely burned the left edge of the cup, clinching Fitzpatrick’s maiden major and PGA Tour victory. Zalatoris fell to his knees, the close call being a perfect representation of his young Tour career, which has been defined by very close calls.
But the day belonged to Fitzpatrick, who stayed at the same house that he did when he took the 2013 amatuer. Another feel-good story: his caddie, Billy Foster, also got his first major championship victory after 40 years carrying the bag for some all-time greats.
Matsuyama’s valiant Sunday effort gave him a solo fourth-place finish. Rounding out the top-five at 2-under was four-time major champion Rory McIlroy, who won last week’s RBC Canadian Open after a final-round 62, and two-time major champion Collin Morikawa, who had held a share of the 36-hole lead.
Leaderboard: 2022 U.S. Open
Pos-Player-To Par (Rd 4 Score)
1. Matt Fitzpatrick -6 (-2)
2. Scottie Scheffler -5 (-3)
2. Will Zalatoris -5 (-1)
4. Hideki Matsuyama -3 (-5)
5. Collin Morikawa -2 (-4)
5. Rory McIlroy -2 (-1)
7. Denny McCarthy -1 (-2)
7. Adam Hadwin -1 (+1)
7. Keegan Bradley -1 (+1)
10. Gary Woodland E (-1)
10. Joel Dahmen E (+1)
Top-5 Check Cashers
1. Matt Fitzpatrick – $3.15m
2. Scottie Scheffler – $1.55m
2. Will Zalatoris – $1.55m
4. Hideki Matsuyama – $859k
5. Collin Morikawa – $675k
5. Rory McIlroy – $675k
How Matt Fitzpatrick Won The U.S. Open
Fitzpatrick was dead solid all week, opening with a pair of 2-under 68s, putting him just one stroke behind Morikawa and Joel Dahmen at the 36-hole mark. He found himself in early trouble on Saturday, carding bogeys on 2, 3, and 4, but bounced back to finish the day with an even-par 70 and the 54-hole co-lead.
His 19 birdies for the week, with at least four in each round, led the field. He did tremendous in limiting his mistakes, with nothing worse than bogey in any of his four rounds.
He constantly had himself in good position on the Sunday greens as a result of hitting 17 of 18 greens in regulation, which is absolutely incredible for a difficult major venue while feeling lead pressure. He was third in the field in strokes gained: off-the-tee, and was first in strokes gained: around-the-green, gaining nearly six strokes on the field.
Driving: 309.2 yards (16th)
Fairways: 39/56, 69.64% (5th)
Greens: 52/72, 72.2% (1st)
Putts/GIR: 1.69 (50th)
Sand Saves: 3/7, 42.86% (45th)
SG: Total: 16.38 (1st)
What a U.S. Open Title Means For Fitzpatrick
The win adds further legitimacy to Fitzpatrick’s PGA profile, as he had done essentially everything except win. He had played well in the first two majors of the year, finishing T14 at The Masters, and T5 at the PGA Championship. He had eight top-10s on the current season and ranked inside the top 25 in all six strokes gained categories.
The Englishman has posted 18 top-10s over the last three seasons.
The win vaulted Fitzpatrick from 18th to 10th in the world rankings, the first time he has been inside the top 10 in his career, despite considerable success in Europe. He is also now 10th in the FedExCup standings.
Fitzpatrick’s PGA Tour Season
Cuts Made: 12
Wins: 1 (U.S. Open)
Additional Top 10: 7
Earnings: $6,129,986 (6th)
FedExCup Pts: 1465 (10th)
World Rank Before/After: 18/10
Other Sunday Stars in Brookline
Hideki Matsuyama’s furious charge up the Sunday leaderboard gave him the low-round of the final day, but he was far from the only player to excel in the difficult round 4 conditions.
Collin Morikawa fizzled out on Saturday, uncharacteristically shooting a 7-over 77 to end his chances of a third major victory, but he bounced back tremendously on Sunday, carding five birdies to just one bogey for a 4-under 66 that tied for the second-best round of the day.
Also shooting 4-under 66 was Italy’s Guido Migliozzi, who had an eagle on 8 and five birdies on his scorecard, which jumped him 31 spots from T45 to T14. The 25-year-old has had just limited success in PGA events but seems to have a penchant for the U.S. Open: he finished T4 a year ago at Torrey Pines in his major championship debut.
Xander Schauffele can commiserate with the close calls in majors of Will Zalatoris, given that he has nine top-10s in majors without a win, including two runner-ups. The San Diego native was not in his best form this week at The Country Club, but his tournament looks much better on paper after a 2-under 68 on Sunday jumped him 19 spots from T33 to T14.
Sunday’s Stumbles at The Country Club
Defending U.S. Open champion Jon Rahm held the solo-lead through 17 holes on Saturday, before a double-bogey on 18 dropped him one behind Fitzpatrick and Zalatoris, but he was still considered a favorite going into Sunday.
It was a round to forget for the world No. 2, however, as the 27-year-old Spaniard managed just one birdie in a 4-over 74 that dropped him from solo-third to T12. Rahm has seven victories in his PGA Tour career.
Sam Burns has been having an incredible 2022 PGA Tour season, with three victories, and a number of other high finishes, but had yet to really contend in a major. He had a shot going into Sunday, sitting just three strokes back at 1-under, but collapsed on the back-nine, shooting a 6-over 76 that plummeted him 20 spots from T7 to T27.
Similarly, Aaron Wise seriously contended this week for the first time in his major career, and while he made waves throughout the week, getting as low as 4-under at one point, his 68-68 start was undone by a 75 on Saturday and a 4-over 74 on Sunday. The 25-year-old Oregon star carded just one birdie in round 4, dropping 16 spots from T11 to T27.