Fitzpatrick figuring out way of building on first-year success

Hallamshire member Matt Fitzpatrick holds the British Masters trophy after his triumph at Woburn (Picture: Nigel Ffrench/PA).
Hallamshire member Matt Fitzpatrick holds the British Masters trophy after his triumph at Woburn (Picture: Nigel Ffrench/PA).
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SHEFFIELD’S Matt Fitzpatrick is likely to prove a difficult person to buy gifts for this Christmas.

Not because the 21-year-old banked more than €2m in his first full season on the European Tour.

It is because the British Masters champion is already certain to acquire the present he most craved – an invitation to play the Masters next April.

The top 50 in the world rankings come December 31 will receive a coveted missive from the Augusta hierarchy offering entry into the season’s first major championship.

He played in it as an amateur in 2014, his invitation coming as a result of his victory in the US Amateur championship the previous year.

And he admits his excitement will be just as great as he prepares to play it for the first time as a professional as a result of his standing as the world’s 46th best player.

Before then he and fellow Sheffielder Danny Willett will be part of Darren Clarke’s European line-up for next month’s EuraAsia Cup in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, an event he had targeted after exceeding his original expectations by winning his first title in his first season.

Between now and then, besides enjoying a family Christmas with father Russell, mother Sue and younger brother Alex, he will use his time away from tournament golf to update his statistics.

Was he not now in a healthy enough position financially to have someone do that work for him?

“A lot of people have said that to me,” he laughed.

“No, I quite like doing it on my own – and that way I know it’s getting done right and done the way I lkie it.”

His statistics at the end of the 2015 Race to Dubai – in which he finished in the rarified atmosphere for a rookie of 12th place – all served to underscore the successful season he had enjoyed.

His drives were an average 15 yards longer than on what were admittedly a small sample of 2014 figures.

His sand saves were up, his average number of putts per round was down – all indicators of the level of improvement that solidified into 10 top-10 placings on Tour, a record for a first-year player.

As well as enabling the former Yorkshire county player to chart his progress of the past 12 months these statistics will also help point him towards the future and a second season that he hopes may bring a Ryder Cup debut.

“I definitely use stats to see where I can make improvements,” he said.

“Mike (Walker, his coach) and I will take a look at them and it will give us a base for things that needed to be worked on.”

One of the most impressive aspects of Fitzpatrick’s win at Woburn in October was the form he displayed in the weeks that followed.

The euphoria of breaking into the winners’ circle in his first year on Tour could easily have destabilised him, particularly since his sole target entering the campaign had been to finish inside the top 115 to ensure he retained his playing privileges.

In the five events that wrapped up the Tour’s 2015 tournament calendar he produced three top-10 finishes, and the other two saw him place 13th and 26th.

“I don’t know how I did so well really, I just carried on playing,” he reflected.

“I didn’t let winning at Woburn affect me, as daft as that may sound.

“I’m still trying to win every golf tournament I play – I’m obviously not saying I’m one of the best of the best, but that’s what they try to do.

“That’s what Rory McIlroy does – he wins one week and then he’s right up there the next; Jordan Spieth wins one week and then he’s right up there the next.

“That is the difference, it’s where these guys are really, really good. Next year I’ll just keep trying to do the same.”