Sheffield’s Matthew Fitzpatrick said life could not get any better after claiming his first European Tour title with a wire-to-wire victory in the British Masters yesterday, taking his season’s earnings to more than £1m.
Fitzpatrick carded a closing 68 at Woburn to finish 15 under par, two shots ahead of Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti, Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen and Ireland’s Shane Lowry.
The 21-year-old Yorkshireman, who was the youngest player in the field, said: “It’s unbelievable. It’s not going to sink in for a long time. A first professional win, British Masters, in England, with my family here; it does not get any better.
“Winning wire to wire is something most players dream of. Jordan Spieth did so when he won the Masters and for me to be in the same category as him is pretty special. I have spent a little time with him (they share apparel sponsors) and I would love to get a (congratulatory) text from him.”
Fitzpatrick insisted he did not feel he had his ‘A’ game during the week, revealing he had phoned coach Mike Walker after each of the first three rounds, despite leading after an opening 64 and sharing the lead on Friday and Saturday.
“We were just trying to fix a couple of things and today I probably hit it the best I have all week,” added Fitzpatrick, who moves to 12th in the Race to Dubai and top of the early Ryder Cup qualifying standings.
After starting the final round tied with Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, a level-par front nine left Fitzpatrick two shots adrift of Zanotti and Kjeldsen, but birdies on the 11th and 12th drew him level before a massive turning point on the par-five 15th.
Kjeldsen looked set to gain the upper hand when he found the putting surface in two, only to run his eagle putt off the green and narrowly miss the birdie attempt.
In the group behind, Fitzpatrick holed from 20 feet to take the outright lead for the first time and things went from bad to worse for Kjeldsen when his pushed drive on the 16th finished at the base of a narrow tree.
From there the 40-year-old could only advance his ball to within 50 yards of the green and when he failed to get up and down, Fitzpatrick had a two-shot lead which he maintained in brilliant fashion with a birdie from four feet on the 17th after Zanotti had holed from outside.
“This year my goal was to keep my card and I was not 100 per cent sure I was going to be able to do that after the start I had, but I managed to start to play well and the past two months have really got going and made a lot of money,” Fitzpatrick added.
The first prize of £500,000 will certainly fund a replacement for his current four-year-old Mondeo, with Fitzpatrick’s dream car – an Ascari A10 – costing around £425,000.
The victory also lifts Fitzpatrick from 111th in the world rankings to within sight of his goal of a place in the top 50 to secure a return to the Masters in April. After winning the US Amateur title in 2013, Fitzpatrick played alongside defending champion Adam Scott and US PGA winner Jason Dufner at Augusta in 2014, missing the halfway cut by a shot.
“If you’re in the top 50 it opens so many doors and my dad says it’s self-perpetuating,” Fitzpatrick added. “The money is bigger, ranking points are bigger and your card is easier to keep.”
Kjeldsen, Zanotti and Lowry were all left to rue missed opportunities on the greens, with Zanotti three-putting the 13th and Kjeldsen and Lowry missing numerous birdie chances.
“I played great today, I really did. But I struggled on the greens,” said Kjeldsen, who won the Irish Open in May. “As well as I played the long game, that’s how much I struggled on the greens.”
In his second tournament since winning the Bridgestone Invitational, Lowry added: “It was another day of playing good golf and holing nothing. Woeful putting is the only term I can use. It’s just frustrating and it’s hard. I lost confidence on the greens. But my golf is good enough to finish in the top three putting bad, so there a lot of positives to take.”
The United States won the Presidents Cup in Incheon with a final match victory when Bill Haas won two up against home player Sangmoon Bae, who was playing his final match before two years of compulsory military service in South Korea.