Distraction won’t be an issue for defending champion Fitzpatrick

Mark McGowan

Matt Fitzpatrick talks to the press ahead of defending his US Open title at L.A. Country Club (Photo: USGA/Jeff Haynes)

Matt Fitzpatrick proved a very popular winner when he captured his first major at last year’s US Open at Brookline, having previously won the US Amateur at the same venue back in 2013, but though the defending champion gathered his second PGA Tour win when defeating Jordan Spieth in a playoff at the RBC Heritage in April, he feels that his game is not quite as sharp as it was this time last year.

“Yeah, this year I would say is quite a bit different,” Fitzpatrick told the media in his pre-tournament press conference. “I feel like the start of the year, I had a good obviously first event in Hawai’i and then got injured, and that kind of felt like it set me back quite a bit for February and March. Ended up obviously playing well in April.

“I feel like my game is kind of getting in the right place. You asked me at Memorial after round 1 or 2 if I was trending. I certainly felt like Memorial and last week I was playing some good golf. I didn’t necessarily score too well last week, but again, I had a slight flare-up on the Friday afternoon with my neck.


“I definitely feel like my game is in better shape. I certainly don’t think it’s as good as it was last year.”

Gaining distance is one of the things that has allowed the eight-time DP World Tour winner to progress to the next level and become a serial major contender, but the increased strength and speed training have not come without cost and he went on to explain in greater detail exactly what issues had been plaguing him at the Memorial and earlier in the season.

“It wasn’t technically neck,” he clarified. “It felt like that, but it was more effectively between my shoulder blades, really. Just purely like muscle tightness that obviously feels worse than it was. Got some work done on it, and it was better. Obviously allowed me to compete.”

Prior to arriving at Brookline, Fitzpatrick had posted a top-five finish at the PGA Championship at Southern Hills which was his best major championship performance to date, and the confidence gained propelled him to greater things and he now feels that he belongs in the elite bracket of players.

“Yeah, I think it’s obviously been a huge boost,” he said. “I think for me winning last year gave me the boost that when I played my best or when I play well I can compete with anyone and I can win a major. I think that was the biggest thing for me to take away turning up to events, knowing that, okay, my game feels in good shape. I’ve got a chance to win this week, whereas maybe previously I’ve almost felt like I played well and not necessarily competed in majors, whereas now I feel like it’s kind of the opposite. As long as my game is there or thereabouts, I feel like I can perform.”

Like most of the his colleagues on the PGA Tour, Fitzpatrick appears to have been left in the dark regarding the controversial proposed merger between the Tour and the PIF, and remains so despite the conflicting reports that have surfaced in the media since the announcement was made last week.

“I’ll be completely honest, I literally know as much as you,” he explained. “I’m sure everyone has gotten questions about it. I found out when everyone else found out. Yeah, honestly, I know literally nothing.”

Despite the upheaval in global golf’s landscape, Fitzpatrick thinks that it will be far from his mind when he turns up on the first tee on Thursday and is announced as the defending champion.

“No, I think it’s overrated,” he replied when asked about the potential distraction. “I think you’re not going to be stood on the first tee thinking, “oh what’s going on in the golf world?” You’re thinking, it’s a par-4, where do I need to hit it, where is the wind. That’s all you’re thinking about.”


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