The 27-year-old Englishman who triumphed nine years ago at this iconic venue when he claimed the U.S. Amateur, became just the 13th man and the first non-American to also add the U.S. Open Championship to his portfolio.
In winning the 122nd edition of the championship on a chilly New England Sunday by one stroke over past U.S. Junior Amateur champions Will Zalatoris and Scottie Scheffler, Fitzpatrick joined World Golf Hall of Famer and 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus as the only golfers to have won the USGA’s two oldest championships at the same venue. Nicklaus accomplished his feat at Pebble Beach Golf Links in 1961 and 1972.
Now 50 years later, Fitzpatrick put himself in rarified company.
“The feeling's out of this world,” said Fitzpatrick, who carded a final-round 68 for a 6-under total of 274. “It is so cliche, but it's stuff you dream of as a kid. I can retire a happy man tomorrow.
“Any time you're sharing a record with Jack Nicklaus, it's unbelievable. So for me to have that as well is incredible. He called me up down there just at the presentation to congratulate me. Coming from someone like that, it means the world.”
Fitzpatrick put on a ball-striking clinic on Sunday, hitting 17 of 18 greens. The only miss was on the 503-yard 10th, a hole the members play as a par 5 that was statistically the championship’s toughest (4.39). Trailing Zalatoris by one, Fitzpatrick’s fortunes changed at the par-4 13th when he converted a 49-footer for birdie.
When Fitzpatrick won the 2013 U.S. Amateur title at this venerable venue – one of the five founding clubs of the USGA – he closed out Oliver Goss of Australia on the 15th hole, and he essentially won the U.S. Open on the same hole, making a 19-foot birdie after reaching the green with a 220-yard 5-iron from a spot in the right rough where spectators had matted the turf down.
“It was one of the best shots I hit all day,” he said. “To do that and take advantage of the break I had was fantastic.”
Zalatoris, whose tee shot on No. 15 landed in thick rough, failed to get up and down from a greenside bunker. That gave Fitzpatrick a two-stroke cushion with three to play, and the cool customer from Sheffield closed with three consecutive pars. On the par-4 18th, a hole he bogeyed on Saturday, Fitzpatrick reached the putting surface from a left fairway bunker, a play some thought was risky.
Zalatoris had one final chance to force a two-hole aggregate playoff, but his 15-foot putt on the 18th green burned the left edge of the hole. It was his second consecutive runner-up finish in a major, having lost a three-hole aggregate playoff to Justin Thomas at last month’s PGA Championship.
“Matt's shot on 18 is going to be shown probably for the rest of U.S. Open history,” said Zalatoris. “I walked by it, and I thought that going for [the green] was going to be[gutsy], but the fact that he pulled it off and even had a birdie look was just incredible. So hats off to him. He played great all week.”
Once the championship was secured, Fitzpatrick first celebrated with his caddie, Billy Foster, and then his parents and younger brother, Alex, who was his caddie here nine years ago. Alex just completed his eligibility at Wake Forest, where Zalatoris played on an Arnold Palmer Scholarship. Fitzpatrick also was embraced by TCC member Will Fulton, with whom he stayed nine years ago and again this week. Fulton was the club’s general chairman for the U.S. Open.
“I love playing this golf course,” said Fitzpatrick. “It suits me so well. It suits my game well. I've been playing well for a while, and I think it all just fell into place that this was the place it was going to happen.”
The day began with nine players under par and within three shots of the lead. But as the afternoon wore on, it turned into a three-man race between Fitzpatrick, Scheffler and Zalatoris.
World No. 1 Scheffler, bidding to be the seventh man to win the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year, looked like he might shoot a Johnny Miller-esque final round when he birdied three of the first four holes and turned in 4-under 31. But TCC’s back nine continued to befuddle the four-time PGA Tour winner as he played the inward nine in 75 strokes on the weekend. The 108-yard, par-3 11th was his Waterloo. A double bogey on Saturday triggered a stretch of 5-over golf, and on Sunday, he lipped out a 5-footer for par that gave him consecutive bogeys. A 6-foot birdie chance also went awry on the par-5 14th. Despite converting a 6-footer for birdie on No. 17, it wasn’t enough to match Fitzpatrick.
“I played really good golf,” said Scheffler. “I hit a ton of quality shots. I look at those bogeys on 10 and 11 and really didn't hit a bad shot… The putts were going around the hole instead of in today.”
Zalatoris got off to a slow start with consecutive bogeys on Nos. 2 and 3 but showed the kind of grit and determination that made him a U.S. Junior Amateur champion (2014) and USA Walker Cup competitor (2017). He produced birdies on 6, 7 and 9 to get within one of the lead. A short birdie on No. 11 put him two strokes up on Scheffler and Fitzpatrick. Bogeys on 12 and 15 saw him fall back to 4 under. He knocked his tee shot on the 209-yard, par-3 16th to 6 feet to set up what would be his final birdie of the day. He came up just short on No. 17 from 12 feet and then saw his last chance at 18 miss by inches.
“With about 6 feet to go, I thought I had it,” said Zalatoris of his last putt. “I was just checking my phone earlier, and a bunch of people were saying that [NBC analyst Paul] [A]zinger had said that everyone missed that putt high. I was the closest one all day. I was, like, thanks for the consolation prize.”
“It felt like [my caddie] Billy [Foster] and me were going to get stampeded, but we didn't. We're fine. I love that. I love when the crowd is excited and loud. It's what makes it more exciting. I love football, and I love the atmosphere in that. I know golf's different, and it's got to be all nice and calm and everything, but sometimes it's good to be a bit different.” – Matt Fitzpatrick on the raucous crowd on 18
“It stings, obviously, to have three runner-ups so far in my career in [nine] majors, but I’ll keep knocking on that door. We're obviously doing the right things. I'd pay a lot of money for about an inch and a half, and I'd probably be a three-time major champion at this point.” – Will Zalatoris on finishing second
“I can't control what's in the past. I'll definitely learn from what happened. Today was one of those days I was playing from behind and put myself in position to win the tournament. I played good golf, but it wasn't good enough. There are definitely a few things I could have done differently, but I'm not going to waste time thinking about it. I'm going to recover from this and move on and hopefully be better from here.” – Scottie Scheffler on coming up one stroke short
“It wasn't that easy out there. Obviously, there was a few good scores, but I needed to shoot a 65 or a 66 to get the job done today, and I just wasn't quite on it enough to do that. I still feel like I played well and shot a solid round of golf, but just not quite good enough to contend.” – Rory McIlroy (2-under 278) on his tie for fifth
“There's only been a handful of courses where I really step foot on property, and you see it for a short period of time, and then you think you're going to love it, and this was one of them. It's a good golf course.” – Collin Morikawa (2-under 278) on The Country Club
“It's just been an honor being here. The whole experience was incredible. Then to top it off with low am, it's hard to put into words how awesome that is.” – Travis Vick
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.