McIlroy fades as Fitzpatrick shines winning maiden Major

Bernie McGuire

Reigning US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick (Chris Keane/USGA)

Bernie McGuire

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Eleven years on there was no Rory McIlroy repeat double U.S. Open/Fathers Day celebration with the Irishman fading to a share of fifth in the 122nd hosting of the U.S. Open at Brookline.

McIlroy’s top-10 finish in suburban Boston, and not including his four major triumphs, was a 21st in his pro career and also a 16th since his last taste of success victory now eight years ago at the game’s highest level.

England’s Matt Fitzpatrick, nine-years after capturing the 2013 U.S. Amateur at Brookline has joined an elite club, that includes the likes of Graeme McDowell, to win a major as a maiden PGA Tour triumph. Others to win the U.S. Open as their maiden Tour event was Angel Cabrera 2007, Michael Campbell 2005, Retief Goosen 2001 and Ernie Els 1994.

Fitzpatrick, 27, overcame finding a 72nd hole fairway bunker, to finish with a par in posting a last round 68 and win by a shot at six-under.

On the bag was legendary bagman Billy Foster, who is set to be honoured at the 150th Open Championship by the Association of Golf Writers (AGW) for his services to golf.

Will Zalatoris signed for a 69 to share second place with World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, who posted a 67 while Hideki Matsuyama grabbed the lowest score all week of a 65 to end in fourth spot.

Like the old golf saying, McIlroy was always on the dance floor but not close enough to the band.

It was once again a frustrating week for McIlroy, one off the lead post his opening round of 67, superbly fighting back from a third hole double-bogey on day two but then three bogeys in his opening six holes on day three had him back-pedalling on day three.

Mcllroy headed into the final round of his 14th U.S. Open four shots from the front, and sharing seventh place.

He got the start McIlroy needed sensationally holing a 26-footer for birdie at the first, and it could have easily been back-to-back birdies when his seven-footer for birdie at the second just missed its mark.

Though the next five holes just exemplified McIlroy’s Brookline frustration climbing aboard a golfing roller-coaster dropping a shot a three, a birdie on four, a bogey at five, a birdie on six and then a bogey at seven.

So, in his opening seven holes, McIlroy posted three birdies and just as many bogeys and then when he bogeyed the 11th, he was now sharing 10th place but agonisingly still only five shots from leading the 122nd hosting of the championship.

Back-to-back birdies at 14 and 15, and holing putts of both around 12-feet, lifted McIlroy back into a share of fifth but it was a little too late.

“It was a bit of a roller coaster on the front nine, bogeys and birdies,” said McIlroy. “I got off to a great start. Sort of feel like there was a couple of holes out there this week that were my nemesis, the 3rd being one of them.

“Yeah, it wasn’t that easy out there. Obviously, there was a few good scores, but I needed to shoot a 65 or a 66 to get the job done today, and I just wasn’t quite on it enough to do that. I still feel like I played well and shot a solid round of golf, but just not quite good enough to contend.”

Next up for McIlroy is Thursday’s starting Travelers Championship, located about an hour-and-a-half drive south from Boston to the host River Highland course. McIlroy is no stranger to the Cromwell, Connecticut course nor is Seamus Power who is joining McIlroy in the $US 8.3m event.

“The game’s there and it’s another top five in a major,” he said.

“I guess doesn’t really mean anything. Yeah, the game’s there. The game’s there. I’ve got one more start next week in Hartford before I go to the Open Championship.

“I’ll get two weeks of good rest before the Open and play some links golf and prepare and look forward to that. Again, my game’s in good shape. I’ve got one more chance this year to try to get that major.”

Power can be proud of his eventual share of 12th place, posting a closing day level par 70 and for a third day running, after his score of 71 on Thursday.

The West Waterford golfer can be proud of his achievement at the game’s highest level after making his majors debut in April, sharing ninth last month at the PGA Championship and now a second straight top-15 at the game’s highest level.

Power matched McIlroy with a birdie at the first but proceeded to drop shots at the third, ninth and 10th holes before getting back to level for his final round holing an 11-footer for a birdie ‘3’ on 12 and then holing a 14-footer at the next.

Next month’s defending Baracuda Championship champion ended his Brookline campaign with five closing pars.

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