Rónán MacNamara in Rome
Matthew Fitzpatrick would have been feeling enough pressure in the build up to the Ryder Cup in Marco Simone this weekend without being reminded of his beloved Sheffield United’s 0-8 hammering to Newcastle United on Sunday.
Fitzpatrick, a boyhood Blade, had the misfortune of witnessing Paul Heckingbottom’s side concede eight times to eight different goalscorers as the Geordies ran riot at Bramall Lane.
“I’m done,” chuckled Fitzpatrick after the opening question of Wednesday’s press conference referenced the chastening result.
“I had the pleasure of being there on Sunday. Yeah, just wasn’t good. Can’t get any worse, can it. I am a massive football fan, so it was a pretty sore one to take, that’s for sure.”
Life has been tough for Sheffield United since returning to the Premier League and life has been equally tough for Fitzpatrick in the Ryder Cup and he wouldn’t have been bouncing into Rome on Monday but the result certainly didn’t help. After all, having appeared in 2016 as a fresh-faced rookie and again five years later in Whistling Straits, Fitzy is yet to register a winning point for Europe in the biennial contest.
In Hazeltine a sprightly Fitzpatrick lost both of his matches and in Chicago he lost all three games, twice alongside Lee Westwood in foursomes and infamously to Daniel Berger on the 18th in the Sunday singles, which secured USA a record win.
“I think looking back, you could argue that I probably wasn’t necessarily ready for 2016. Probably would have been ready for 2018. 2021, obviously very different from 2016, as well. Better player. Quite a bit older. And then obviously now, also different player to then as well,” said Fitzpatrick, now 29 years of age and a major champion.
“So obviously a lot’s changed in those two years for me. Definitely feel just much more experienced, particularly sort of looking around the team room this time, one of the more experienced players just in general rather than — you know, certainly my third Ryder Cup.
“But just having more experience in general I think holds me in good stead for this kind of event.
“I think 2016, I was still 19 or 20. Maybe 21 or whatever. I was still really young. I wasn’t obviously the longest back then. I was pretty short. There’s quite a lot of technical difference in my swing between now and then as well.
“I think as an experience, I only played one foursomes and obviously the singles, so that was kind of disappointing. You build it up to be this amazing thing that you wanted to be part of thinking that you’ll get a real good go at it, and obviously I never did, really. So that’s obviously always something that’s sort of disappointing.
“But at the same time, like I say, I look back at that experience, and I was very young, and my game wasn’t necessarily ready for that almost, I think. I think the golf course setup that week was just not in my favour at all, as well.”
Time has been kind to Fitzpatrick since 2021. He won the 2022 US Open Championship in Brookline and is currently ranked 8th in the world. He arrives as one of Europe’s main men and while he may appear steely in typically Sheffield style his dismal Ryder Cup record irks him and his greasy chip butty would taste all the better if he could register a W.
Fitzpatrick isn’t the only player to struggle in the team format and he won’t be the last to say he would rather win as a team than win a point and lose the Ryder Cup.
“I want to win a point, of course. But you know, I really would rather be on a winning team. There’s no doubt about that. I think that is what’s been so great about the last couple of experiences, anyway, is obviously we’ve not been on the right end of the result, but just being part of The European Team and being amongst the guys that you play with week in, week out. That’s what makes the Ryder Cup so special for me.”
Will Fitzpatrick finally break his duck in the Ryder Cup or will he also be left wincing at a chastening 0-8 of his own?