Fitzpatrick confident he can deal with pressure on Walker Cup bow

Matt Fitzpatrick watches his tee shot on the seventh hole during the final round of match play at the 2013 U.S. Amateur  (Picture: USGA/John Mummert)
Matt Fitzpatrick watches his tee shot on the seventh hole during the final round of match play at the 2013 U.S. Amateur (Picture: USGA/John Mummert)
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Next stop New York for Yorkshire’s unassuming, conquering hero Matt Fitzpatrick.

Having defeated the best apprentice golfers in the world to lift the US Amateur title last month, the teenager from Sheffield, who turned 19 last Sunday, turns his attention to the best America has to offer in the Walker Cup.

Fitzpatrick makes his debut in the biennial amateur duel between Great Britain and Ireland and the United States as the man to beat from an American perspective, and the man to lead from the visiting team’s viewpoint.

Such responsibility comes after a breakthrough summer in which the willowy young Hallamshire Golf Club member won the silver medal at the Open and became the first Englishman in 102 years to win the biggest amateur tournament in golf.

The achievements elevated him to the No 1 ranking in the world, a position he admitted last week he does not believe he deserves.

But because of that standing, he will be the young man captain 
Nigel Edwards looks towards to lead from the front as GB&I seek to retain the Cup they won at Royal Aberdeen two years ago.

“I welcome the pressure but I’m trying not to think about it,” said Fitzpatrick during a brief visit back home to Hallamshire last week.

“Everybody will be trying to beat everybody and sometimes it’s just not your day. Hopefully, my ‘day’ will carry on going, but if I don’t play well enough then I don’t play well enough.

“These 20 players are the best in the world, bar a few Australians, Thais, etcetera.

“It’s a real privilege to be a part of it, but it’s going to be tough, there’s no doubt about that. It’s not like playing a club member at Hallamshire – although there are a few bandits...”

Fitzpatrick’s star has risen exponentially this summer to the point where monthly medals at the course he grew up playing are now a thing of the past.

His matchplay talents have always been strong, from the days playing in the county boys and senior teams to when he finished runner-up in the Yorkshire Amateur Championship at Lindrick two years ago.

Despite the obvious talents he has displayed this summer, 
together with a commendably calm mental approach, there remain demons in his mind about his own ability.

“Someone asks me if I doubt myself, and I do,” said Fitzpatrick.

“If someone told me to go out there (pointing to the first fairway at Hallamshire) and hit a hook onto the green, I wouldn’t be like, ‘I can’t do that’, I’d definitely give it a go.

“But I feel that other people can beat me. When it comes to matchplay I don’t go on the tee and think, ‘I can definitely beat this guy’. But I feel a little bit better in matchplay because if I can get ahead I’m not too bad at holding it together.”

During the US Amateur, he started strongly in nearly all of his six games and raced to victory.

“It’s difficult the further ahead you get because the harder it becomes with the pressure,” continued Fitzpatrick.

“I wouldn’t say I had to get up early, but it made life a lot easier when I was up more often.

“In 18 holes you do have to get up quickly because it gives the opponent less time to get back.

“The closer it gets to the end the more they’re going to be downbeat; they’ll try harder to force it and it might get worse for them.

“So it’s nice to go into the Walker Cup with that confidence.”

Regardless of whether or not he adds to his remarkable summer of achievement with a Walker Cup triumph this weekend, Fitzpatrick remains steadfast in his determination to begin his four-year golf scholarship at Northwestern University in Illinois from next week.

The joy he has had this summer, particularly in the major environment at Muirfield, has reaffirmed his desire to turn professional one day.

If he needed further incentive as to where the two-day competition at the National Golf Links of America in Southampton, New York, could lead he should look no further than the young man he shared two rounds with at Muirfield – Jordan Spieth.

Two years ago, the 20-year-old from Texas played in the Walker Cup and this week was named by Fred Couples as a wild-card pick for the President’s Cup.

Fitzpatrick does not expect, or want, his career to accelerate as quickly.

At Northwestern, he will link up with revered golf coach Pat Goss, who has taught Luke Donald since his days of two Walker Cup appearances at the turn of the century.

Although his future might be in America, Fitzpatrick intends to stay true to what has got him so far by retaining Mike Walker – of the Pete Cowen academy – as his lead coach.

“We’ve both agreed to tell Pat just to leave me alone and, if absolute needs be, I can fly home for a lesson with Mike or I can do it over Skype or Facetime or video,” said Fitzpatrick.

“Pat is not going to try and change anything technically.”

This weekend in New York, Fitzpatrick gets the chance to prove further how little needs changing.