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Big names, fairway bunker on the final hole couldn’t separate Matt Fitzpatrick from US Open history

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BROOKLINE, Mass. — One by one, they climbed near the top of the leaderboard in the cold of a gray, gritty Sunday, only to fall back, unable to catch the elusive man at the 2022 US Open.

Matt Fitzpatrick and The Country Club have a great history, and nothing was going to separate them, not Will Zalatoris, not Scottie Scheffler, not Hideki Matsuyama, not Rory McIlroy.

The 27-year-old Englishman who had never won on the PGA Tour before this weekend believes there is magical dancing in the streets of this venerable club. He won the US Amateur here in 2013. He has now won the US Open here nine years later, becoming one of only three golfers in history to win an American Amateur and an Open on the same course, along with Jack Nicklaus and Juli Inkster.

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“I didn’t want to say it, I didn’t want to curse it out, but I felt comfortable here all week,” Fitzpatrick said. “I really felt like I had a chance all week. I felt that this was going to be the moment. I told myself the opportunity would come and it did and I took it.

“I have performed very well here in the past. I have so much comfort on this golf course. The course suits me very well, it adapts well to my game. I’ve been playing well for a while and with more length (off the tee), it all fell into place.”

It was a brilliant revival of a scene from a nightmare that sealed Fitzpatrick’s victory. Standing in a fairway bunker on the 18th with a 9-iron in his hands and a precarious one-shot lead to protect, Fitzpatrick hit a majestic approach to the green as the crowd roared its approval and made two putts to win the US Open by one. hit on Scheffler and Zalatoris. Fitzpatrick finished 6-under in the tournament, shooting three rounds of 68s and one round of par 70s.

“If there’s one shot I don’t want, it’s a fairway bunker shot,” Fitzpatrick said afterward, “but it turned out to be one of the best shots I’ve ever hit, all time. When I saw him come out of the arena and felt the hit, I knew it was good.”

Zalatoris, furiously trying to catch Fitzpatrick on that final hole, cherished the moment even when it meant almost certain defeat for him.

“Matt’s shot at 18 will probably show up for the rest of US Open history,” said the 25-year-old Zalatoris, who finished second at the 2021 Masters, second at last month’s PGA Championship and now tied for second place here.

“I walked past him and I thought going after him was going to be daring, but the fact that he pulled it off and even had a birdie look was just amazing.”

While that shot put a fitting punctuation mark on Fitzpatrick’s day, the story of his final round was as follows: He hit 17 of 18 greens, an impressive display of grit and edginess.

“I had a lot of patience today,” he said. “I thought, if I stay in, if I hit 18 greens, I have a chance, and I almost made it.”

Sure he had his setbacks, including three bogeys, two of them in a row on the 10th and 11th holes to fall behind Zalatoris by two shots, but even then, he never wavered on a day when most of the rest did.

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Matt Fitzpatrick acknowledges the crowd after winning the 2022 US Open.

All week long, the connection was made: Here he was, the US amateur champion who won on this course nine years ago, again. The Country Club is proud of its history with fans, dating back to 20-year-old amateur Francis Ouimet’s legendary victory at the 1913 US Open, right here.

Fitzpatrick enjoyed that story and believed he knew the field better than anyone.

“I certainly think it gives me an advantage over everyone else, yes,” he said Saturday night. “I really believe that. It’s a real, obviously positive moment in my career (winning the Amateur). He got me going. Coming back here and playing so well again, it gives me more and more confidence round by round.”

He joked that now that he’s won twice here, he’ll try to “bring all the tour events here now.”

That won’t happen, obviously. But this just happened.

“I’ve won a major today,” Fitzpatrick said, smiling, almost incredulous. “I’ve won a major.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Matt Fitzpatrick makes US Open history at The Country Club

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