BROOKLINE, Mass. — England’s Matt Fitzpatrick is champion again at The Country Club, this time with the biggest trophy in golf.
2013 US Amateur Champion. US Open Champion on Sunday.
In a three-way battle at Brookline that went all the way, Fitzpatrick took control with a big break and an even better shot on the 15th hole for a two-shot swing. He was right in the clutch of a fairway bunker on the 18th that set the par for a two-under 68.
Victory wasn’t certain until Will Zalatoris, who showed an incredible fight against every mistake, fell to his knees when his 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th skidded off the left side of the cup. Zalatoris, who closed with a 69, was runner-up in the second consecutive major.
Masters champion Scottie Scheffler never recovered from back-to-back bogeys to start the final nine holes that cost him the lead. He had a 25-foot birdie shot on the 18 that narrowly missed and left him one behind with a 67.
Along with the $3.15 million in prize money, Fitzpatrick had the Jack Nicklaus gold medal around his neck, which was fitting.
Fitzpatrick is the 13th man to win both the US Amateur and US Open in his career, and the second to win both on the same course, joining Nicklaus, who pulled off the trick at Pebble Beach. Juli Inkster won the US Women’s Amateur and the US Women’s Open at Prairie Dunes.
Fitzpatrick, who briefly played at Northwestern before turning pro, won for the eighth time worldwide, and this was the first in the United States, at least one tournament that everyone knows. He won the member-member award at The Bear’s Club in Florida earlier this year, the course that Nicklaus built.
“He insulted me a little bit earlier in the year. He said, ‘Finally. Congratulations on winning in the States,'” Fitzpatrick said.
And then, slightly raising the trophy, Fitzpatrick sent an amused message to Nicklaus: “Jack, I won for the second time.”
Fitzpatrick became the first player since Graeme McDowell in 2010 to earn his first PGA Tour win at the US Open.
He took a good break, a signature shot and some guts at the end.
Fitzpatrick and Zalatoris were tied going for 15 when the Englishman hit his tee shot so far to the right that it went into the gallery and found decent position on the turf that was dead and trampled. Zalatoris missed by only a few meters and was buried in the thick grass.
He hit a 5-iron from 220 yards to 18 feet below the hole. Zalatoris entered the front bunker, jumped 25 feet and bogeyed. Fitzpatrick took a two-shot lead when his birdie putt entered the cup with such perfect timing that he didn’t even touch the pin it leaves in the cup.
Zalatoris rallied again, taking a hard dunk at the par-3 7-foot 16 for birdie to cut the lead to one shot. Both missed 12-foot birdie chances on the 17th, and then Fitzpatrick missed a fairway at the wrong time, pulling it left into a bunker with a steep rough right in front of him.
It seemed a tie-break was eminent: the previous three US Opens at Brookline were decided by a tie-break, and then Fitzpatrick intrepidly hit a fadeout with a 9-iron that carried the huge bunker in front of the green and settled 18 feet. far.
He narrowly missed and could only watch as Zalatoris missed his last chance.
“Matt’s shot at 18 will probably show up for the rest of US Open history,” Zalatoris said. “I passed by and thought it would be risky to try.” But the fact that he pulled it off and even had a birdie look was just amazing.
“So hats off to him. He played really well all week obviously and put in a solid round today.”
Fitzpatrick finished with 134, six under par.
The 27-year-old Fitzpatrick, the first Englishman since Justin Rose in 2013 to win the US Open and the youngest England player to win a major since Tony Jacklin at the 1970 US Open, felt his time was drawing near. He is meticulous about laying out his shots and keeps track of all of them to identify what needs work. And he’s emphasized speed in his swing over the past two years, giving him the length and confidence to compete with anyone.
That didn’t make Sunday any easier, a three-man race from the start as Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy backed off and never rejoined the mix.
Fitzpatrick and Zalatoris, who shared a 54-hole lead, each had a two-shot lead at one point.
Zalatoris, who lost in a playoff to Justin Thomas at the PGA Championship last month, recovered from two early bogeys. They were tied when Zalatoris made an 18-foot birdie putt on the short par-3 11, and Fitzpatrick made three bogey putts from the same range.
The 25-year-old from Dallas suddenly had a two-shot lead. He also couldn’t keep the ball in the fairway, costing him a dropped shot at No. 12. And then came another big turning point, with Fitzpatrick pocketing a 50-foot birdie putt on the 13th green. Zalatoris did well to make his pair of 15 feet and headed to the tense conclusion.
Scheffler was still mulling his bid for a second major this year, but everyone else became a distant memory. Hideki Matsuyama had the lowest round of the week with 65, but he finished with 3-under 277, and that was never going to be good enough.
In the end, it was Fitzpatrick sharing hugs with his family on the green, including his younger brother Alex, who was his caddy in the US Amateur and recently turned pro.
And there was his caddy, Billy Foster, one of Europe’s most popular and veteran loopers who had never been in the bag of a major until Sunday.
“Billy said it for a while to keep doing what you’re doing and the opportunity will come,” Fitzpatrick said. “He did, and I took advantage of it.”
ESPN Stats & Information and The Associated Press contributed to this report.