Brooklyn, Massachusetts. – Couldn’t Zalatores resist peeking at Matt Fitzpatrick’s ball.
He and Fitzpatrick were walking toward their shots on the 18th hole at The Country Club on Sunday. Madness was swirling around them. The US Open was hanging in the balance. Thousands of rowdy fans had just spilled into the driveway, and now Boston police officers are trying—and failing—to keep the crowds behind a rope rope. Clinging to one shot, Fitzpatrick tried to keep his head down while navigating the melee, but was able to be swallowed up by the crowd. It took three police officers to finally clear the way for him.
Zalatores walked. Fitzpatrick’s tee shot was somewhere in his left lane bunker, and Zalatoris wanted to know exactly what Fitzpatrick was facing with his approach. His own ball was in the lane and he wasn’t sure if he needed a jumper or an equivalent to get into the playoff. What Zlatores saw gave him a glimmer of hope. Fitzpatrick’s ball was placed in a shallow part of the bunker, partially blocked by a jagged island. It would take a little miracle to get it green.
“I thought going there would be disconcerting,” Zalatores said. “It is likely that 1 in 20 will – at best – succeed.”
Suddenly, parity could send Zalatoris into a playoff. The bird might win the championship right away. Hovering in the air is a mixture of tension, fear and excitement.
Fitzpatrick, when he finally got to the ball, saw it likewise. This was, frankly, a moment. Whatever happened after that may haunt him or bring him about for years to come. Talk about his options with Caddy, Billy Foster. Pull a 9 iron and straighten hair to the left. It’s time to trust everything that has brought me to this moment.
Taking a few deep breaths, he shook the club a few times, then climbed onto the inside of the ball. It all happened so quickly, and the thick crowd was still grumbling, as if by surprise, as Fitzpatrick pulled the wand again. But the sound of the bat attached to the ball was rippling through the air like the crack of a whip.
Fitzpatrick watched him climb and grind in the air, drifting gently to the right, then hear the roar as he rolls down from the sky and nests behind the pin. Zlatoris can hardly believe it.
“To achieve it in this situation is incredible,” Zalatores said. “When they show the highlights of future US editorials, this is a shot that will be shown. Because that was great.”
The US Open wasn’t officially over until Zalatoris narrowly missed a flying shot at the age of 18, giving Fitzpatrick a chance to celebrate his first major after throwing. But the vault shot is one that will go down as part of US Open tradition, and it’s a shot that demonstrates Fitzpatrick’s blend of grit and genius. He hit 17 of the 18 Greens during the last round of 68, something that only Nick Faldo (1996 Masters) and Brooks Koepka (2017 US Open) have done in the past 30 years’ majors.
Zalatoris and Scotty Schaeffler (Zalatoris tied for second after last turn 67) threw straw makers at him throughout the afternoon, each taking a share of the lead at some point, but Fitzpatrick—who grew up in Sheffield, a working-class steel-town in the England – withstood them all.
“It’s one of the best shots I’ve ever had,” Fitzpatrick said. “I’ll be honest, I’ve really struggled with Fairway dungeon shots all year. I’m a fast player, and when I go back it all happened really fast. Natural ability kind of took over. I played the shot that was on hand. It came out kind From fading away fast. It was amazing.”
It would be a bit of an exaggeration to think of 27-year-old Fitzpatrick as an underdog, even though his underpinnings will help him move past his adolescence in most English high schools. He won the American Amateur Award at The Country Club in 2013, played on three teams of the European Ryder Cup Championship and won seven times on the European Tour.
But before Sunday, he had yet to win the PGA Tour and had only two Top 10 majors at the Grand Slam. He felt like a golfer who would always be a prisoner of his physical limitations, a huge weight in the ring with the middleweights and the heavyweights. He could hit above his weight level, occasionally, but no one expected him to hit the ball off the tee.
But gradually, that’s exactly what’s starting to happen, especially this year. The speed of Fitzpatrick’s ball was climbing steadily to where it is now similar (175 mph) to Justin Thomas (176 mph) and Dustin Johnson (177 mph). On Sunday, he far outperformed Zlatoris, something he said gives him more confidence every time he walks to the ball.
“I don’t know if you guys noticed, but I feel it [Fitzpatrick] “I’ve made some extreme improvements to the tee in a matter of months,” Scheffler said. “I played with him in Austin this year and he wasn’t hitting the ball as much as he is now. I don’t know what he’s doing. Maybe he’s on the Bryson Show or something. He hits it really well. He definitely deserved to win this golf tournament” .
Fitzpatrick laughed when he learned of Schaeffler’s comments and couldn’t resist taking what looked like a little dig at Bryson DeShamboe.
“I just had a drug test and a negative result,” Fitzpatrick said sarcastically.
Fitzpatrick revealed that since 2020, he has been working hard with his team, trying to get stronger and faster. Some of his progress has been derailed by injuries, but recently things are really starting to look like.
“I’ll be honest, these worked wonders,” Fitzpatrick said. “Maybe three years ago, if I was in that position and was playing Will in the last set, I would have been worried because I would be 15 or 20 behind him all day. I felt relieved knowing I was going to be after him, which obviously gave me the confidence to move on to the shot. The following. When you bump into people, it’s obviously pretty cool.”
But the moment Fitzpatrick dominated the championship was a mixture of patience, strength and a little luck. He and Zalatoris – tied for fifth – had to wait nearly 10 excruciating minutes on the 15th tee as Zalatoris began to stretch as if he was working his way through a beginner’s yoga class. When they were finally cleared of the beating, Fitzpatrick blew his drive well to the right of the fairway. Zalatoris hit a much better ball and looks like it’s going to fall into the short grass. But when they reached the tee, the ball of Zalatores was buried in the open; Fitzpatrick was seated clean, in an area trampled by the crowd.
“I didn’t realize how well it went,” Fitzpatrick said. “I should have screamed up front, so I hope you don’t hit anyone in there. But it’s funny, I feel like all year long we’ve had moments where we didn’t finish. Bounce, and this time I got there with the ball in perfect shape.”
Fitzpatrick tore a towering 5-square iron of that perfect lie from 220 yards away. He knew it was cool, and he settled down 18 feet from the hole.
“One of the best shots I’ve had all day,” he said.
Zalatoris made a ghost from the front bunker. Suddenly Fitzpatrick started his shot to take a lead with two bullets with three holes to play.
Roll it directly into the heart of the cup.
He couldn’t resist following him with a deflated fist pump. He has always felt neglected and excluded in the world of golf, and now here’s a major championship at his fingertips. He walked to the next tee with a jump in his step.
“My parents always taught me to be humble and humble,” Fitzpatrick said. “If they don’t bring me back to Earth, so are my friends. I’ve always been. It doesn’t matter how good I play. But I’ve always been competitive. And I just love to win. I absolutely love to win. I don’t care who it is, I just want to beat everyone.” I don’t show that much because I like to be quite conservative. I just like to beat everyone. It’s that simple. I just like to win.”