BROOKLINE, Mass. – England’s Matt Fitzpatrick is champion again at the Country Club, this time with golf’s greatest trophy.
An American amateur champion in 2013. The champion of the US Open on Sunday.
In a three-way battle at Brookline that went to the wire, Fitzpatrick took control with a nice break and an even better shot on the 15th hole for a 2-shot swing. He was equally clutching a fairway bunker on the 18 that set par for a 2-under 68.
Victory wasn’t assured until Will Zalatoris, who showed an incredible fight against every error, fell to his knees when his 15-foot birdie putt on 18 just slipped through the left side of the cup. Zalatoris, who closed with a 69, was runner-up in the second straight major; he lost in the playoffs to Justin Thomas in the PGA Championship last month.
Masters champion Scottie Scheffler never recovered from back-to-back bogeys to start the back nine that cost him the lead. He had a 25-foot birdie chance on 18 that narrowly missed and left him 1 shot behind with a 67.
Along with the $3.15 million in prize money, Fitzpatrick had that gold Jack Nicklaus medal wrapped around his neck, which was fitting.
Fitzpatrick is the 13th man to win both the US Amateur and the US Open in his career, and the second to win both on the same course, joining Nicklaus, who completed the round at Pebble Beach. Juli Inkster won the US Women’s Amateur and the US Women’s Open at Prairie Dunes.
Fitzpatrick, who briefly played at Northwestern before turning pro, won for the eighth time in the world, and it was his first win in America – at least in a tournament everyone knows about. Earlier this year, he won membership at Bear’s Club in Florida, the course Nicklaus built.
“He insulted me a bit at the start of the year. He said, ‘Finally. Congratulations on the victory in the United States,’” said Fitzpatrick.
And then, lifting the trophy slightly, Fitzpatrick sent an amusing message to Nicklaus: “Jack, I won a second time.”
Fitzpatrick became the first player since Graeme McDowell in 2010 to claim his first PGA Tour victory at the US Open.
It took a good break, a signature shot and some guts at the end.
Fitzpatrick and Zalatoris were level in the 15th when the Englishman hit his tee shot so far right that he went into the gallery and found a decent lie on some dead, trampled grass. Zalatoris only missed a few yards and was buried in deep grass.
Fitzpatrick hit the 5 iron from 220 yards 18 feet below the hole. Zalatoris entered the front bunker, exploded 25 feet and bogeyed. Fitzpatrick took a 2-shot lead when his birdie putt entered the cup with such perfect pace that it didn’t even hit the pin it left in the cup.
Zalatoris bounced back again, taking a tough par-3 16th pin from 7 feet for a birdie to cut the lead to one shot. Both missed birdie chances from 12ft on the 17th and then Fitzpatrick missed a fairway at the wrong time, pulling him left into a bunker with a steep area of rough right ahead of him.
It looked like a playoff was imminent – the previous three US Opens at Brookline have all been decided by a playoff – then Fitzpatrick fearlessly hit a fade with a 9-iron that carried the gaping bunker in front of the green and set himself up at 18 feet one way.
He narrowly missed and could only watch as Zalatoris missed his last chance.
Fitzpatrick finished at 6 under 134.
Fitzpatrick, 27, the first Englishman since Justin Rose in 2013 to win the US Open and the youngest English player to win a major tournament since Tony Jacklin at the 1970 US Open, felt his time had come. He is meticulous in mapping out his shots and keeping track of each one to identify what needs improvement. And he has emphasized speed in his swing over the past two years, giving him the length and conviction to rival anyone.
That didn’t make Sunday any easier, a three-way race from the start when Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy backed off and never joined the mix.
Fitzpatrick and Zalatoris, who shared the 54-hole lead, each had a 2-stroke lead at one point.
Scheffler was still trailing in his bid for a second major this year, but everyone else has become a distant memory. Hideki Matsuyama had the lowest round of the week at 65, but he finished 3-under 277, and that was never going to be good enough.
In the end, it was Fitzpatrick who shared hugs with his family on the green, including his younger brother Alex, who caddyed for him in the US Amateur and recently turned pro.
And there was his caddy, Billy Foster, one of Europe’s most popular and oldest loopers, who had never been on the sack for a middle finger until Sunday.
“Billy said it for a while to keep doing what you’re doing and luck will come,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s done, and I grabbed it.”
ESPN Stats & Information and Associated Press contributed to this report.
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