Matt Fitzpatrick has won the 113th US Amateur, beating Oliver Goss, 4 and 3, on Sunday and ending a century-long run of bitter defeats at The Country Club by British players.
Fitzpatrick led after 18 holes, 1 up, lost the 19th hole, then won the next two holes, never trailing again. He closed out the championship where five of his six matches ended — at the par-4 15th hole. When Goss failed to hole a 3-foot putt for par, Fitzpatrick was the winner, joining Harold Hilton as the only US Amateur champions from Britain.
With the victory, Fitzpatrick will receive an exemption into next year’s British Open; he already had secured invitations to the 2014 Masters and US Open by reaching the final.
With the largest crowd of the week following the final match — many cheering for Fitzpatrick, whose paternal great-grandfather was Irish — the 18-year-old bound for Northwestern showed the kind of all-around game that was well suited for The Country Club. He was long enough off the tee, straight enough (which was much more important), and able to save par almost every time he missed a green and was forced to scramble.
Fitzpatrick’s victory should make big news back home, where there had been a losing history at The Country Club until Sunday. Most know amateur Francis Ouimet’s victory in the 1913 US Open over British professionals Harry Vardon and Ted Ray; but Nick Faldo also lost the 1988 US Open to Curtis Strange, and the 1999 US Ryder Cup team used a record-setting comeback to beat Europe.
It was an entertaining match; not entirely crisp, but lots of holes won, especially early. Eleven holes were won in the morning round — six by Fitzpatrick, five by Goss — some with birdies, some because of careless mistakes.
Fitzpatrick added five more wins in the afternoon round. He won Nos. 20 and 21 (Goss double bogeyed the 20th, then bogeyed the 21st), and restored his two-hole lead by winning the 28th, also with a par.
When Fitzpatrick won No. 32, he was three holes up with four holes to play, then closed it out on the next hole.
Neither player led by more than one hole in the morning portion on another glorious day that saw the crowd swell since the 9 a.m. start. Fitzpatrick drew first blood at No. 2 when Goss couldn’t save par after leaving his tee shot short of the par-3 green. Fitzpatrick gave that right back with a three-putt bogey at the third, then retook the lead with the day’s first birdie, a 10-footer at No. 4.
Back-to-back birdies by Goss at Nos. 5 and 6 turned a one-hole deficit into a one-hole lead. He lasered his approach to 3 feet at the fifth, then canned a 7-footer at the short sixth.
It was Fitzpatrick’s turn to answer, and he did at the par-3 seventh, rolling in a 35-footer for birdie to square the match.
The ugliest hole — at least in Fitzpatrick’s mind — came at No. 8, when both players were short of the par-4 green in two. Fitzpatrick hit a poor chip coming up well short, then three-putted for double bogey. Goss couldn’t save par from in front, but his bogey was good enough for the win, which pushed back in front.
After halves at Nos. 9 and 10 (players made pars at both), it was Goss’s turn to give a hole away with an unforced error. He three-putted the 11th, and a two-putt par by Fitzpatrick was enough to win the hole and again square the match.
Goss had a big length advantage off the tee, but couldn’t find the fairway at the par-5 12th, pulling his drive along the treeline. He was able to get to the top of the hill on his second shot, but it finished in a fairway bunker, and his third settled on the back fringe.
Fitzpatrick made all that a moot point, rolling in a 22-footer for birdie to win the hole and take the lead. A rare short-game miscue cost Fitzpatrick at the 14th, when he missed a 5-footer after a mediocre chip from left of the green. Goss’s par there again squared the match.
The final hole won in the morning round came at No. 15, when Fitzpatrick’s short birdie putt was conceded. Goss drove left, went long with his approach, chipped back over the green, and missed his comeback chip for par.
Halves at the last three holes left Fitzpatrick with a 1-up lead, but the pars at the 18th were anything but ordinary. Both players drew gnarly lies in the right rough after wayward drives, and both failed to reach the green, coming up short. Fitzpatrick’s ball nearly reached the right greenside bunker, but got caught up in the high grass just in front, leaving him with a downhill lie. He blasted to 20 feet.
Goss had a much easier third shot, but left it short, in the rough, some 18 feet away. Fitzpatrick holed his par putt, then, after removing the flagstick, Goss answered with a chip-in for his par.