- Alistair Tait
Fitzpatrick Forecast Was So Wrong
Updated: Oct 19, 2021
Matt Fitzpatrick gave me one of the shortest work days of my golf writing career when he won the 2012 Boys Amateur Championship 10&8 over Welshman Henry James at Notts Golf Club. It was an impressive victory, but I didn’t have him down as a future seven-time European Tour winner.
How wrong was I? Very, is the short answer.
The Sheffield native, one of the nicest guys you’ll meet on the European circuit, taught me once and for all the proverbial don’t judge a book by its cover lesson.
Fitzpatrick has just reached seventh heaven with his three-shot victory in the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters at Valderrama. Since his maiden 2015 British Masters win over the Marquess course at Woburn, Fitzpatrick has only had one winless European season: 2019.
That Boys final at heavenly Hollinwell was a 36-hole affair. I’m not a big fan of 36-hole finals; I find it difficult to get excited about the morning round. So I had a leisurely Saturday morning and turned up for the afternoon round. Imagine my joy when I arrived at the golf club to find Fitzpatrick held a nine-hole lead! I phoned home and informed my better half there was a good chance I’d be home a lot earlier than I’d predicted.
And I was.
Fitzpatrick’s win was the fourth highest since the championship began in 1921, and the biggest since Sandy Lyle lost 10&9 to Toby Shannon in 1974 at Royal Liverpool.
Even then I wasn’t convinced Fitzpatrick would go on to win European Tour titles. For one thing, he looked about 12 years old, not the 17 he actually was – he still looks about 12, even with the face hair. For another, he seemed too nice. Although he’d given James a hammering, he didn’t appear to have much of a killer instinct.
“I really feel for Henry because that’s the best I’ve played all week,” Fitzpatrick said.
Champions feeling sorry for opponents? Hardly the Seve Ballesteros or Tiger Woods way.
Read ‘em and weep, as they say: 2015 British Masters; 2016 Nordea Masters; 2016 and 2020 DP World Tour Championship, Dubai; 2017 and 2018 Omega European Masters; and now the 2021 Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters over a tough course like Valderrama. Throw in two Ryder Cup appearances – 2016 and this year – and if the Englishman does nothing else in his career it will have been a great one.
Fitzpatrick has occupied a place in the Official World Golf Ranking top 50 since November 2016. He arrived in Spain 28th on that ranking, but has been as high as 16th.
And he’s not done yet. He’s only 27.
“Winning around Valderrama is something you want to tick off on the bucket list,” Fitzpatrick said. “To do it in the way that I did, with no bogeys in the final round was extra special.”
Rest assured he has many more things on that bucket list. A Ryder Cup point is one of them. He’s yet to record even a half point in those two appearances. That’s sure to change, because he’s going to be vying for spots in European teams for many more years to come.
That Fitzpatrick has excelled among the bombers of today’s game has to be admired. He’s averaged under 300 yards per drive in every season he’s played since his rookie 2015 year. That’s short in an age when nearly every player hits it at least 300 yards.
What he loses in distance he more than makes up for in accuracy. He’s also not too bad with a putter in his hand, too. That was obvious at Valderrama.
While that Boys Amateur was a valuable lesson in not jumping to conclusions, it seems a safe bet to say there’s a great chance Fitzpatrick has quite a few more victories in his future.
And to think I wasn’t even sure he’d win one. Honestly!
#JustSaying: “He’s very good. He doesn’t miss many shots. He hits it straight. As he gets bigger, he’ll hit it a little further. He’s a good putter.”
Fred Couples, after playing with Fitzpatrick in the final round of the 2013 Open Championship
Photograph by Getty Images courtesy of the European Tour