BROOKLINE, Mass (AP) — Golf’s volatile future was certainly at hand in the final four hours of the US Open.
The game, almost always at its best when major titles are at stake, went on a wild ride courtesy of Matt Fitzpatrick and Will Zalatoris, two 20-somethings trying to win their first major title, but such games were like they had been doing this for years.
There were ties, leadership changes, and enough pace changes to make the NBA crowd edgy. There was tension. In the end, it was a career-defining shot from a fairway bunker that left Fitzpatrick holding the trophy—and a putt that missed a whisker that left Zalatoris his head in his hands after another excruciating close call on a major. Caught and let go.
“When they show future US Open highlights, he’s going to be shown because he was incredible,” Zalatoris said.
He was referring to a hit Fitzpatrick shot from the fairway bunker at number 18, while leading by one. It was a 9-iron from 156 yards. The shot lifted off the sand, and there was enough juice to clear the gaping bunker protecting the green. It had come to rest 18 feet above the hole.
Fitzpatrick went down in two puts to complete his round of 2-under 68 and tournament finish of 6-under 274.
But not until Zalatoris’ 14-foot putt stopped a millimeter to the left of the cup—a miss that landed him and took him his third second in only seven starts in the Majors—was the tournament. above.
With tears in his eyes, Fitzpatrick’s caddy, Billy Foster, kissed the 18th flag; It was also his first major after four decades in the business.
Then, suddenly, golf’s biggest debate breakaway wasn’t about the future of the LIV Tour, or the sustainability of the PGA Tour, or how the tour would punish those who dared to blame. Instead, as Zalatoris suggested, it’s about whether Fitzpatrick’s bunker shot could fit into the pantheon of biggest shots executed under major-championship pressure.
“It’s one of the best shots I’ve hit, no doubt about it,” Fitzpatrick said.
That shot, and the day, arrived at one of golf’s holiest shrines, felt just right. The Country Club outside Boston is where in 1913 Frances Ouimet defeated one of the game’s greats, Harry Varden, who helped put golf on the map in the United States.
Curtis Strange won the last US Open here in 1988. Justin Leonard made a long putt to lift the US to their Ryder Cup win here in 1999.
Some thought the US Open only left the course and property behind, but the USGA decided to take a chance on the hilly, craggy, wind-swept layout, which was full of blind shots and crooked fairways everywhere. was filled with
Country Club. So Fitzpatrick and Zalatoris, assisted by Scotty Scheffler, finished second with the top-ranked Masters champion, Joe Zalatoris. Most of his best shots over the weekend came on the ninth front.
Schaeffler was looking near the 18th green when Zalatoris’ birdie putt missed less than an inch.
“When it was two feet out, I was like, ‘Oh yeah, he’s in,’ and for some reason it went to the left,” Scheffler said. “It’s one of those deals. You have to take breaks.”
Fitzpatrick got the biggest break on this day. No one was bigger than the 15th tee box when he and Zalatoris were tied and facing a blind shot up a hill on a 500-yard par-4.
Fitzpatrick hits the big block; The memory of Zalatoris was not that far off. But Fitzpatrick’s ball landed in the area crushed by the fans. Zlatoris was in the thick, green grass. Fitzpatrick made the birdie and Gelatoris made the bogey. It was a two-shot swing that, ultimately, Zalatoris could not overcome.
“We’re walking down and he goes, ‘I barely miss the fairway and I’ve got a terrible lie and he misses it 30 yards and he’s fine,'” Zalatoris’ caddy, Ryan Goble said. “But Matt played great. And yes, it was a great experience. So you just say, ‘Yeah, we’ll get him next time.'”
For Fitzpatrick, that win also books with his title at The Country Club, at the 2013 US Amateur. He became the second person to win both the US Open and the Amateur at the same place. Second: Jack Nicklaus at Pebble Beach in 1961 and 1972.
After the win, Nicklaus called Fitzpatrick to congratulate him on his victory. However, Fitzpatrick spoke of a separate phone call from The Bears—which he received after his victory in the members-only tournament at The Bears Club, Nicklaus’s location in Florida.
“He said, ‘Finally, congratulations on winning in the States,'” Fitzpatrick said.
Nicklaus was dodging him. Prior to this, all seven of Fitzpatrick’s professional victories had come on the European Tour.
This time, Nicklaus’ call was no joke. Finally, Fitzpatrick has an official victory in the United States—and the biggest win at that.
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