BROOKLINE, Mass. — Prior to Sunday, England’s Matt Fitzpatrick had never won a professional golf tournament in the United States.
Now he has won two of the biggest golf events in the world on the same course. Nine years after winning the US Amateur at the Country Club outside Boston, Fitzpatrick picked up his first PGA Tour win at the 122nd US Open at the same course on Sunday with a one-stroke victory over Will Zalatoris and the Masters champion Scottie Scheffler.
Fitzpatrick joins Jack Nicklaus as the only male golfers to win a US Amateur and a US Open on the same course (Nicklaus did so at Pebble Beach in 1961 and 1972).
Here are five things we learned at the US Open this week:
1. It was the Fitzpatrick era
Fitzpatrick became the first player to claim his first PGA Tour victory at a major tournament since fellow Englishman Danny Willett won the 2016 Masters. But it’s not like Fitzpatrick hasn’t won as a professional previously.
Fitzpatrick, 27, has won seven times on the European Tour (now the DP World Tour), including twice at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. He had been moving in the right direction at majors, with a tie for 14th place at the Masters and a tie for fifth at the PGA Championship at Southern Hills last month. The performance at Southern Hills, perhaps more than any other, proved to Fitzpatrick that he could compete at this level.
“Being a major event, it’s quite different from a regular PGA Tour event,” Fitzpatrick said. “At the end of the day, they’re really hard to win. I think until Southern Hills, really, I haven’t really appreciated how hard it is to win a major. Yeah, I haven’t challenged , really, until then.
“I think, myself included, and people on the outside maybe think it’s easier than it is. Just look at Tiger [Woods]. He brought down so many in such a short time. That’s why I think people think, ‘Oh, that’s a piece of cake; it’s like a regular Tour event. But it’s not.”
And of course, Fitzpatrick’s history at the Country Club provided an edge that others didn’t. He stayed in the same house with the same host family he had at the 2013 US Amateur.
“I definitely think it gives me an edge over the others, yeah,” Fitzpatrick said the day before the final round. “I sincerely believe that. It’s a real, obviously, positive moment in my career. It sort of revived me.”
2. Rory is the face of the PGA Tour
McIlroy of Northern Ireland has once again failed to end his eight-year drought without a major championship. He is now 0 for 29 in the majors since winning the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla.
McIlroy, 33, was 4 pennies before the weekend at the Country Club but never did anything on Saturday and Sunday, at least not until too late. He birdied at numbers 14 and 15, but missed good chances on the last two holes.
“It’s not win or lose,” said McIlroy, who finished tied for fifth at 2 under. “It’s not like where I finished was the same as not playing on the weekend. I guess when I look back, will I remember fifth place that I had at Brookline? Probably not. …I played well enough to give myself a chance to win. Didn’t get the job done, but I’m closer than I’ve been in a while, the good thing is.”
But McIlroy’s best work came earlier in the week when he again defended the PGA Tour. He criticized young players who left for LIV Golf for taking the “easy way out” and called their decisions myopic.
“I get it. Yeah, because a lot of these guys are in their late 40s,” McIlroy said. “In Phil [Mickelson’s] case, early 50s. Yeah, I think everyone in this room would think their best days are behind them. That’s why I don’t get it for guys that are the same age as me because I’d like to believe my best days are still ahead of me, and I think theirs are too. So that’s where you feel like you’re taking the easy way out.”
3. The USGA got it right
The Country Club hadn’t hosted the US Open since 1988, when Curtis Strange beat Nick Faldo in the playoffs. Hopefully the USGA won’t wait 34 years to bring him back to the club outside of Boston.
Overall, the golf course and its layout have received rave reviews from players. Yes, it was difficult. The wind was swirling, the third cut of rough was ankle deep and the greens were small and firm. Overnight rain and less wind prevented typical Sunday conditions at the US Open from developing.
“Other than the smaller chipped green, I thought it was the best place I’ve played in a while,” Collin Morikawa said Sunday. “There’s only been a handful of classes where I’ve really set foot on the property, and you see it for a short period of time and then you think you’re going to love it, and that was one of them.There is no BS around It is a good golf course.
“You really have to chart your course. You have to think about it. I thought it was a course you could play pretty well on and a course that could hurt your back pretty quickly. I think I got the two ends, but overall, yeah, I loved it.”
The USGA has been heavily criticized for the course conditions at the US Open in the recent past, but give them credit for pulling this one off. Tyrrell Hatton didn’t even complain.
“The golf course, obviously, had rain [Saturday], so he’s been a little bit more responsive than he’s been all week, which is probably why you’re seeing lower scores going down the stretch,” said winner Gary Woodland. US Open 2019. “The wind has calmed down a bit now. It would have been interesting if we hadn’t had the rain last night. I think it would have been the same as yesterday. But [Saturday] was what they wanted, and that’s what you want in a US Open. It was hard. The conditions were brutal. The golf course is perfectly laid out.”
4. The guys at LIV Golf haven’t had a good week
The US Open’s surge focused on the ongoing battle for the soul of professional golf between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, with the breakaway circuit led by former world No. 1 golfer Greg Norman and financed by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.
The USGA was placed in a difficult position when PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan suspended 17 players for playing at LIV Golf’s inaugural event outside London last week. Some of those players, including Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Kevin Na, had already come a long way through byes, and it wouldn’t have been fair to kick them out after the fact.
Once the tournament started on Thursday, however, LIV Golf’s roster wasn’t much of a factor. Only four of the 15 players who played in the London event or announced they will play in the next one in Portland, Oregon, made the cut at the US Open. None of those who stayed for the weekend played very well. Johnson was the top 4-point finisher. The English Richard Bland had 8 points more, Patrick Reed 10 points more and Bryson DeChambeau 13 points more.
That’s the problem with LIV Golf right now. Outside of Johnson, the majority of players who have left the Tour are either aging players or shells of themselves. Reed hasn’t won since January 2021 and has just two top 10 finishes in 20 starts this season. DeChambeau hasn’t won since March 2021 and is coming back from left-hand surgery. He has only made seven starts this season. It was his seventh consecutive finish outside the top 25 at a major tournament, the longest drought of his career.
The PGA Tour-LIV Golf feud isn’t going to end anytime soon. While most top players, including Scheffler, Zalatoris, Morikawa and McIlroy, say they are staying on the Tour, a slow exodus of other players will likely continue over the next few weeks. LIV Golf is expected to announce the 48-man field for the Portland event early this week. There is speculation that a few notable players could be among the latest defections.
5. Fans still love Phil
The USGA couldn’t have been too excited that Mickelson skipped the Masters, the major he loves the most, and the PGA Championship, an event he won in 2021 to become the oldest major champion at 51. year. This put the US Open in the crosshairs for Mickelson’s return to competitive golf in the United States.
Although Mickelson’s press conference on Monday was quite uncomfortable – he skated around the toughest questions – his reception from golf fans was quite welcoming. Sure, there were a few calls about blood money and betrayal, but on the whole Boston sports fans, who have a reputation as some of the most feisty, were pretty warm. with Lefty.
Despite the adulation, Mickelson had to face a harsh reality this week. His days of competitive golf against the best players in the world are over. Mickelson fired 11 shots over the first two rounds, his fifth-worst 36-hole tally in his major career. While we might have expected too much from a 52-year-old who hadn’t played a competitive round in the United States since late January, his best days on the course are clearly in the rear-view mirror.
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