In so many ways, Matt Fitzpatrick’s unforgettable final hole of the US Open crystallized the 27-year-old’s path to his first major championship.
Fitzpatrick’s drive into a left bunker off the fairway of the 18th at The Country Club put him in immediate peril of giving back his one-stroke advantage over Will Zalatoris on the final hole Sunday. Yet as so often was the case throughout the tournament, Fitzpatrick recovered to put himself in remarkable position, drilling his approach shot 161 yards to within 18 feet of the hole for an easy two-putt.
That formula — reaching the greens with a chance at birdie and faring no worse than a two-putt — worked time after time for Fitzpatrick throughout a tournament that he won despite putting poorly relative to the field.
Fitzpatrick reached an astounding 17 greens in regulation Sunday — the most of any golfer on any of the four days. Overall, Fitzpatrick reached 52 of 72 greens in regulation, a 72 percent rate that was tied for the best at the US Open.
The ability to stay on the greens and avoid three-putts allowed Fitzpatrick to win despite the fact that he needed 122 putts over the four days — tied for 50th in the field. He ranked no better than 25th in putting average on any of the four days. Even more astonishing, on Sunday, Fitzpatrick required 35 putts — 1.94 per hole, tied for the worst average of any of the 64 golfers who made the cut.
Scottie Scheffler, meanwhile, needed just 28 putts (tied for 14th fewest Sunday), and Zalatoris needed only 27 (tied for seventh ). For the tournament, Scheffler needed only 111 putts (tied for second-fewest) and Zalatoris needed 113 (tied for fifth), their path to 5-under 275s driven in no small part by their excellence on the greens.
|ROUND 4 (rank out of 64 players in parentheses)||Matt Fitzpatrick||Will Zalatoris||Scottie Scheffler|
|Fairways||11/14 (T-2)||7/14 (T-33)||8/14 (T-23)|
|Greens in regulation||17/18 (1)||11/18 (T-26)||13/18 (T-6)|
|Putts||35 (T-63)||27 (T-7)||28 (T-14)|
Yet because Fitzpatrick put himself in such consistently excellent position on his approach shots, he frequently claimed birdies and pars even with two-putts. Perhaps the most notable instance of the former came on Sunday on the 301-yard par-4 fifth hole.
Fitzpatrick was the only player Sunday to reach the green off the tee, leaving himself 25 feet from the flag with a chance for eagle. Instead, he two-putted for birdie, the fourth straight day in which he birdied the hole.
And even on a day when his aggregate putting was below field average, Fitzpatrick came up with a pair of unlikely birdies — a 49-footer on the par-4 13th (one of two putts over 20 feet that he made during the tournament) and a 19-footer on the 15th — that took him to 6 under.
The string of three straight birdies on the 13th through 15th holes — following back-to-back bogeys on 10 and 11 — took Fitzpatrick’s odds of winning from just under 20 percent after the 11th to a whopping 76.4 percent after the 15th. From there, the familiar formula of three straight greens and two-putts — and one narrow miss on a birdie attempt by Zalatoris on 18 — secured Fitzpatrick’s memorable first major.