Breakout Performer: US Amateur Winner Matthew Fitzpatrick Is Not the Next Tiger Woods
This past weekend, 18-year-old Matthew Fitzpatrick became the first Englishman to win the U.S. Amateur Championship since before the Titanic sunk. In the 36-hole final on Sunday at the The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, Fitzpatrick, with his 14-year-old brother Alex at his side, and on his bag, bested Australian Oliver Goss 4 and 3.
Fitzpatrick’s U.S. Amateur victory earned him a spot in the British Open, U.S. Open, and the Masters in 2014. But first, the student and athlete will have to conquer the shower caddy during his first semester at Northwestern University in Chicago, his first and only college choice. We caught up with him while he basked in the afterglow of his victory.
SI: The last Briton to win the U.S. Amateur was Harold Hilton in 1911. How’s it feel to accomplish something that no one has done in over a century?
Fitzpatrick: Pretty special. I did work pretty hard for it so it’s nice to get the goal in the end.
Big year for ending British sporting droughts: First Andy Murray at Wimbledon, and now this. Were you thinking of it in terms of “I’m here, representing my country”?
Yes and no. A lot of people kept mentioning that to me that an Englishman hadn’t won in so long, and obviously that did cross my mind. It sounds really cheesy but I wouldn’t say I was doing it for England. I was doing it for myself and trying my best to win for myself, really.
You led wire to wire in the finals. Do you prefer to be the hunter or hunted?
I’m not really sure. It’s going to be interesting over the next few weeks because obviously now everybody is going to want to beat me. Which is always a good thing, I guess. It’s going to be nice to be in that position, a position I’ve never been in before.
Tiger Woods won the US Amateur back in the day. Are you the next Tiger Woods?
Not that I know of.
FACT Fitzpatrick won the Silver Medal at Muirfield this July, awarded to the leading amateur at the Open Championship.
What was it like having your younger brother Alex on the bag for you?
Really good. It was nice to have the personal support so close. He was a big help with that, and on the course as well.
Best piece of advice you got from him?
Early in the week he read a couple of putts. He gave me a couple of good club selections. I know a lot of guys or some friends might try to get too involved and sort of put me off my game. I’d say the best thing about it is that he really did leave it to me.
FACT Alex (above, in the snappy red bib), who has golf aspirations of his own that don’t involve toting big brother’s bag, said Matt basically ignored his advice. It didn’t help that Alex nearly lost Matt’s lob wedge.
Whose game does yours most closely resemble?
This week, probably Luke Donald. Although I would like to be like Henrik Stenson. He’s a great player and at this moment in time he’s probably my favorite player.
FACT Henrik Stenson finished runner-up to Phil Mickelson at Muirfield in 2013. Here they are with Fitzpatrick collecting hardware.
Speaking of Luke Donald, he’s a Northwestern grad. Did he have anything to do with your decision to become a Wildcat?
He didn’t, really. I didn’t want to speak with someone and hear them say it’s absolutely amazing, that it’s the best university, because it’d be a pretty biased opinion.
So how’d you choose?
I knew it was a great academic school and that was big for me. Also that they’ve got a great coach in Pat Goss, who I know won’t mess with my swing. I’ll work on what he wants me to work on, what I need to work on.
Did you consider staying in England for college?
No, I mean it was always Northwestern or nowhere, if I’m honest. The thing about it is, it’s just such a good school and Pat was just great when I went for my visit there. I just didn’t feel like any of the other schools would put up the same value with a great coach and a great education.
FACT Jesper Parnevik’s semi-retired former caddy Lorne Duncan held the bag for Fitzpatrick at the British Open.
How’d you get hooked up Duncan?
He lives in a motor home in the car park of the driving range where my coach works.
So you saw him out on the range?
My coach knows him really well and asked him if he’d like to work with me. It went from there. After we had a good week at the Open, I asked him for the Majors next year and I think he’s going to do that for me. We have a good relationship so far. I’ve had to drag him out of retirement.
You now have a Masters invite and exemptions into the 2014 U.S. Open and British Open. Of the 3, which are you most excited to compete in?
The Masters. That is a golfer’s dream. It’s pretty much impossible to play there so it’ll be fantastic to do so.
FACT On the third day of this year’s British Open, Scottish newspaper The Herald published an article about Fitzpatrick, but referred to him throughout—except, curiously, for one instance— as Matthew Fitzgerald.
Most memorable putt of your career?
The one on 7 at the Amateur. It was just to get me back in the match. I mean it didn’t really swing anything because I’m pretty sure I lost the next hole, but it was just a great putt—and on TV. Although, I don’t know actually because I holed a good one on 16 at the Open, a birdie.
After this week it’s a close one between the putter and driver. I’ve had the same putter for 7 or 8 years, and then I’ve had the driver for two years. It’s really scratched and battered but I don’t want to change it.
Who would you like to play with in a Pro Am?
I wish I had more time to think about this one. I’d love to play with Tiger but I can’t really say that. I’d go with Daniel Craig. Or Justin Timberlake. And an English comedian named Lee Mack.
FACT Fitzpatrick (below, right) and Amateur runner-up Oliver Goss threw out first pitches before a Red Sox-Yankees game on the Saturday before the final.
How’d you meet your girlfriend, Amy?
We’ve been in the same school since I was about 7.
Are you guys going to be continuing the relationship long distance?
Yes, we we are. We’ve been going together three years now so we don’t see much reason to call it off.
What thing do you think you’ll miss most about living in England?
Well, my home golf course, Hallamshire. Maybe my own bed. I reckon just my regular surroundings. No doubt I’ll get to the new surroundings eventually, but I’ll miss being home.
FACT Fitzpatrick’s father Russell (below, with the boys and their mother, Sue) gets nervous watching his son play, and often opts to check out other competitors.
You’ve been busy thanking a lot of people on Twitter, calling some people “pal” and others “mate.” Any significance to the terms you choose for different people?
They’re basically the same thing. I like to make it a little bit personal by doing something different rather that making it seem a bit like an automated reply.
Who were you most surprised to hear from on Twitter?
Quite a lot of people, actually. At lunch time after the third round Lee Westwood followed me on Twitter. He said “well done”. I’ve had a number of pros saying the same.That’s just been fantastic—it just shows how nice the guys are. I met Lee and Ian Poulter and Ricky Fowler at the Open. Sometimes they don’t come across well in the media but they are really nice guys. So, one of those three.
FACT Here he is in 2011 at the Yorkshire Amateur, looking less like a phenom and more like a human. He finished runner-up.
And, a better look at his swing.
Choose one of the following: Monty Python, The Office, Dr. Who, or Simon Pegg.
Favorite sport to watch other than golf?
Queue or Line?
Should toilet paper roll out from the top or bottom?
Website you visit most frequently?
BBCSport or Twitter.
Favorite American fast food chain?
I think that’s one notch above true American fast food.
I’ll just say the other pizza one, then. What is it, Pizza Hut?