2022 US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick reveals all about his injury-hit start to 2023, how Jack Nicklaus convinced him to change his irons, and why the big events need LIV golfers.
Matt Fitzpatrick has come a long way since being mistaken for Tiger’s ball boy at the 2013 Open. The lad who chased Rickie Fowler for an autograph still retains the same slender build and boyish looks, but he’s gone from practising for eight hours a day at Hallamshire Golf Club in his hometown of Sheffield, to Major champion, multiple PGA Tour winner and mainstay in the world’s Top 10.
A meticulous note-keeper who has recorded every shot he’s hit since he was 15, Fitzpatrick has overhauled his entire game in the last few years – and, boy, is he reaping the rewards. He wanted to get stronger, and he wanted more distance, so he adopted a speed training system called The Stack that has yielded an extra 5mph of clubhead speed since 2019, along with a US Open and a second PGA Tour win at The RBC Heritage at Harbour Town in South Carolina, where he outlasted Jordan Spieth in a playoff.
He has already set himself the target of winning six Majors before the end of his career and soon he’ll turn his attention to defending his Major title in LA. Based on current form and his new-found confidence, he may well be one of the favorites…
WINNING AGAIN ON THE PGA TOUR
“I think I can retire now. This one (the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town) is the one that I’ve always wanted to win. Other than the Majors, there isn’t a higher one on my list and that’s the truth. My family can tell you that, and my friends can tell you the same thing. It’s just a special place for me, and it means the world to have won it.
“I used to come (to South Carolina) as a kid on holiday a lot, obviously played the tournament since 2016, so it’s one I’m very fond of. Aside from Augusta, it’s my favorite golf course.
“I felt like I got off to a slow start, didn’t play much in the fall, and this gives me a huge boost. This really cements my place up there in the top 30 for the Tour Championship, and that’s the goal, to always make it there, as well as getting as high up in the World Ranking as possible.”
HOW HIS LIFE HAS CHANGED SINCE BROOKLINE
“I felt like I was going to be pulled in a million directions, do this, do that, do this. I’ve been asked to do more things, but at the same time it’s kind of just learning to say no and do what I feel is valuable, as well as helping my sponsors and the commitments that I’ve made with them.
“I wouldn’t say there was anything out of the ordinary. One thing that it’s made me realize is just that my time is really important. Just time management has been a really big thing for me that I’ve learned.”
HIS US OPEN DEFENCE AT THE LOS ANGELES COUNTRY CLUB
“To defend any title is great. To defend a US Open is 10 million times better. There’s still a long way to go, but I’m looking forward to being back there.
“I like the look of the course. It’s very rugged. The big thing at LACC is around the greens. It looks like you can’t miss them. I think it’s going to be really difficult to make up and downs. It definitely strikes me as a US Open-style course. You’ve got to be really strong tee to green.”
THE IMPORTANCE OF STAT TRACKING
“I put a lot of my improvements down to statistics. I’m always trying to see where I can improve all aspects of my game. That’s why I take so much detail on the golf course, so I know where my weak areas are and where my strengths are, and I know how to kind of improve those with my team. Statistics to me are incredibly important.
“The big thing that I get out of it is certain ways to play certain holes; do I need to be more aggressive? What the scoring average is to certain pins. How my dispersions kind of decide my targets when I’m hitting into the pins. We collect a lot of stuff, and I think it’s very helpful for me in kind of organizing what I need to practise for the upcoming tournament and what areas I need to concentrate on.”
“The speed thing, it was always something we were trying to improve. How we went about it, we never really had as clear a plan as we have now. I feel like something clicked and it improved really fast.
“I’ve been working on using the Stack System since the end of 2020. I use a training programme called The Stack, which is like a golf club with weights on. You follow an app on your phone and it tells you what weights to put on the club, how many swings, and you do that over a period of time and that’s definitely helped me get a lot faster. That’s been a big positive.
“I had an off-period in the summer of 2021, and coincidentally my driving, literally, went down. Not only hit it shorter again, but I wasn’t hitting it straight, either. I got back on it and started hitting it better.
“In terms of the gym stuff, I hired a trainer, Matt Roberts. I think the first season we worked together was 2018. And since then, the big thing I’ve felt while training with him is more athletic. We don’t really do golf-specific stuff. It’s just about being strong and being strong enough to cope with the speed that you’re going through.
“We built a really good foundation in the off-season all the way through to January last year. I had the whole of January off. It gave me four really good weeks to make some progress and get stronger and basically build the foundation for the rest of the season.”
USING A YES! PUTTER PROTOTYPE
“Bettinardi did a fantastic job of copying that. I liked it for a couple of things. The feel, if I just picked up a regular blade putter without any milling, it feels very fast off that putter. Mine feels a little bit softer. Not only that, though, for me when I’ve hit putts with just a regular-faced putter I feel like it slides on the face a lot. Like if I maybe don’t quite strike it perfectly. With the C-Groove that I have, I feel like it helps start it online much better.”
“Normally, if I’ve got to land it inside 30 yards, I’ll chip cross-handed. Outside of that, I tend to go to a normal grip just because I can’t really get the speed. I also can’t get the spin if I have to play a high shot going cross-handed. That’s when I might have to go to a normal grip.”
THE BIG EQUIPMENT CHANGE WHICH HAS IMPROVED HIS ACCURACY
“We put weights in the grips of my irons to make them a little bit more fade-biased, which has felt a little bit more comfortable. I think it’s about eight grams. Might be a bit more. I actually spoke to Mr [Jack] Nicklaus about it because someone told me he did it. He just said that he did it because it just stopped his hands over rotating. In my terms I guess it felt more held off.”
BEING ABLE TO CALL ON JACK’S ADVICE
“I feel very, very lucky that I have spent a lot of time with him. Particularly January of last year. As I had the whole of January off, I was practising at The Bear’s Club a lot. I ended up having lunch with him on three or four occasions and we were just chatting about life and golf. For me growing up it’s a dream to be able to talk to someone like that, a man who’s one of the greatest, if not the greatest, to ever play the game.”
BUILDING A NEW LIFE IN AMERICA
“Growing up as a kid, I would come over to the States and vacation with my family and play in America. I love being here. I love living down in Florida. My life’s over here now. From a young age I wanted that to be the case. So, to now play here full-time is obviously a dream come true.”
HIS INJURY-PLAGUED START TO 2023
“I kind of hurt my neck just before going to Pebble at the end of January. I started getting a sensation down my shoulder and into my chest, and my trainer was like, ‘We should get an MRI on that’. We went straight to the hospital in Los Angeles and it was a slight disk bulge. Because of that, I wasn’t able to train in the gym as I was in January; that was all put to a stop. I wasn’t able to continue my speed work that I had been doing religiously.
“The timing of it put me straight behind the eight ball. All of a sudden, the work I had done in the off-season just became non-existent. I wasn’t moving as well as I needed to and because of my neck, I’ve not been able to swing it, and then my swing has changed, kind of compensating.
“I’ve never had an injury like this. I’m definitely feeling better now and getting there, but I certainly lost a lot of ground and definitely regressed quite a lot. I probably under-appreciated the injury and the severity that it had on my game.”
STAYING GROUNDED WITH THE HELP OF HIS TEAM
“My coach, Mike Walker, has been fantastic. I work with a psychologist as well in the UK, Robbie Anderson, and he’s been very helpful, too. But Mike has been a big part of that. He’s not just my coach, I’ve been with him since I was 14 years old, so we have a very close relationship as well, but he’s very good psychologically.
“I think him being on the outside, he can kind of see what’s going on, see how I’m dealing with things, and know when to step in and have a conversation. So Mike’s been really good for that.”
WHY THE MAJORS NEED LIV GOLFERS
“If you win (a Major) and they are not allowed to play, there’s always going to be an asterisk, whether you like it or not. It’s good for the game that they’re playing. For me, it’s good to see familiar faces.”
WHO SHOULD BE ELIGIBLE FOR THE RYDER CUP
“I just want to win The Ryder Cup. I want the best guys we can get. I’m not really too bothered about where they are going to come from. I know other guys might not necessarily agree with that, but I know the winning feeling is worth more than any sort of arguments you might have with other players.”
THE MERITS OF THE STRATEGIC ALLIANCE
“My biggest gripe is that the PGA Tour aren’t doing enough, if it’s a strategic alliance, to help build up the DP World Tour.
“People will say I’m one of those who have left the European Tour but I haven’t. I still play over there. But the best players are over here on the PGA Tour and I need to compete against them as often as I can. I’ll still go back, but I really don’t know how often you can do that when it’s all geared towards playing here.”
THE DP WORLD TOUR GIVING AWAY 10 PGA TOUR CARDS TO THE TOP 10 ON THE RACE TO DUBAI NOT OTHERWISE EXEMPT
“It adds to the message that you’ve got to play in the US. It will just make it more difficult for the European Tour to get strong fields going forward. The Tour seemed to be on a good path, then Covid came, and everything that has happened since then has blown it out of the water really.”
WHAT THE PLAYERS WANT TO SEE
“I think the big thing that has been talked about a lot with the players is that we want to play less. Having 53 tournaments in a 52-a-year cycle is ridiculous. It’s too much golf. I just think people probably need a break from it. I think that’s why I think having less, but getting the best players together more, is obviously the way to go.”
Matt Fitzpatrick’s story so far
Aged 18, wins the Silver Medal as the leading amateur at the Open Championship, finishing in a tie for 44th on +10 at Muirfield.
Becomes the first Englishman to win the US Amateur since 1911, beating Oliver Goss 4&3. Moves to the top of the World Amateur ranking.
Five months after turning professional, finishes 11th at Qualifying School to earn his DP World Tour card for the first time.
On his 24th DP World Tour start, completes a wire-to-wire victory to claim his first pro title at the British Masters at Woburn.
Makes his Ryder Cup debut at Hazeltine, but fails to score a point from two matches as Europe suffer a heavy defeat.
Successfully defends his European Masters title at Crans-sur-Sierre in Switzerland a few days after being snubbed for a Ryder Cup pick.
Claims his second DP World Tour Championship title, beating eventual Race to Dubai champion Lee Westwood by one shot.
Three weeks after failing to score a point at the Ryder Cup, secures his sixth DP World Tour victory at the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama.
Outlasts Scottie Scheffler and Will Zalatoris by one shot to win his first Major Championship at the US Open in Brookline.
A week after the Masters, clinches his second PGA Tour title with a play-off victory over Jordan Spieth at the RBC Heritage.
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