What a week, what a tournament! The 2022 US Open is in the books: Matt Fitzpatrick won his first career major (and his first pro win on American soil); The Country Club was perhaps the biggest star of the weekend; and some of the stars that were in the field struggled to live (not LIV) up to expectations. Here are six takeaways from a truly wonderful tournament, starting with the winner of the sport of braces:
matt fitzpatrick is real
There are a lot of ridiculous facts and statistics attached to Fitzpatrick’s performance this weekend. He became the second male golfer to win the US Amateur and the US Open on the same course (Jack Nicklaus did it first, at Pebble Beach). He hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation in his final round, just the third person to do that in a major victory in the last 30 years after Nick Faldo at the 1996 Masters and Brooks Koepka at the 2017 US Open. He had a shocking performance for history. And, perhaps weirdest of all, it seems completely sustainable.
Fitzpatrick has been a menace with an iron in his hands for years. That ability has given him eight wins on the European Tour and helped him win a T-5 at the PGA Championship last month. But he has had to work in other areas. He has increased his ball speed dramatically over the past two years, which has helped him get far enough off the tee to compete with golf’s greatest hitters.
And for the last 12 years, he’s been meticulously recorded every shot hit to learn your own trends and get an accurate reading of not only how you hit the ball, but also how your results compare to your goals. That may seem like an exaggeration, and much of what you record you’ll probably never think about again. But with the championship on the line on Sunday and Fitzpatrick facing an extremely tough second shot from a fairway bunker on the 18th, he hit a shot I’m sure he’ll return to every day for the foreseeable future, as he should.
Will Zalatoris was outmatched again, but he won’t be out for long
For the second straight major, Zalatoris went toe-to-toe with the eventual champion and came up short. At the PGA Championship at Southern Hills, he lost to a rising Justin Thomas in a three-hole playoff. And this time, Zalatoris and Fitzpatrick spent 18 holes making decisive putts, incredible iron shots and plenty of fist shots, only for Zalatoris to miss a putt on the 18th to tie Fitz at 6 under and force another playoff.
The scene was devastating: Zalatoris hunched over, his hands still gripping his putter as they flew to his face in disbelief. Getting so close, so often (this was his sixth top-10 finish at a major and his third second-place finish in just over a year) only to have it slip through your fingers again and again has to be exhausting. But unlike other players in the ranks who came close but couldn’t close, Zalatoris’ effort feels more uplifting than discouraging. He approached the top of the mountain, again, on a field that kicked players’ butts all weekend. And even after going 2-over on his first three holes on Sunday, he bounced back and came within an inch (literally) of matching Fitzpatrick.
The odd short slam aside, Zalatoris looks like he’ll be a serious championship contender for a long time. And very soon, maybe even a month from now on the Old Course, he will finally get the win.
The Country Club is an elite US open course.
The Country Club produces incredible finishes. That is what happened in most of the important events that took place there throughout the 140 years of the camp’s existence. The 1913, 1963, and 1988 US Opens went to a playoff. The Americans won the 1999 Ryder Cup there in spectacular fashion. And now, we have a ball hitting battle for the ages, as Fitzpatrick, Zalatoris and Scottie Scheffler survived a field that was largely chewed up and spit out on Saturday and Sunday.
Take the eighth hole, for example, where Scheffler hit an eagle hole on Saturday while many others just hoped they could hit their approach shots far enough down the green that the ball wouldn’t roll to their feet. Or the 11th, the 130-yard par 3 that looks absolutely adorable on TV and yet gave Scheffler a momentum-killing bogey on Sunday. Each hole he presented his own proof; all those tests were challenging; and it was so much fun watching the best in the world have to reason and work their way through every shot they took. Here’s hoping that Los Angeles Country Club is just as good next year, and that we’ll see Brookline again soon.
Rory McIlroy – always in the top 10 finishers, never (in eight years) a winner
Another strong performance, another solid if unspectacular performance from Rory. He’s become predictable at this point: Start strong or finish strong, but can’t string together enough good rounds to win the fifth major of his career, and the first since 2014. And while that might be good enough for 98 percent of Pro golfers out there, the McIlroy case remains frustrating because he still has incredible potential.
Take this week: Rory, coming off a big win at the RBC Canadian Open, seemed to have it all worked out. His game was strong, enough to have finished second and eighth in the Masters and PGA Championships this season, respectively, and he had some additional fire from spending the previous week publicly defending the PGA Tour and embarrassing LIV Golf and everyone else. they are involved with (more on that later). On Thursday, that combination was powerful enough to earn him a 67 and a T-2 spot on the leaderboard. But while he stayed on Friday, he returned to the field with a 73 on Saturday and couldn’t go low enough on Sunday to match incredible rounds from Fitzpatrick, Zalatoris and Scheffler.
This will be the fourth consecutive top 10 in the @usopengolf for Rory McIlroy, and it is the first time in his career that he has finished in the top 10 in each of the first three majors in a season.
—Justin Ray (@JustinRayGolf) June 19, 2022
He finished tied for fifth place, meeting expectations but never exceeding them. And weirdly, that may have been the most frustrating thing he could have done.
Scottie Scheffler is number one in the world for a reason
Speaking of living up to expectations, but in a good way, Scheffler is on an incredible roll. He has already won four times on Tour this season, including the Masters in April. The US Open is his second-place finish in three events. And during the first six holes on Sunday, in which he played 4 under par, he seemed unstoppable.
Now, he came back down to earth a bit on the back nine and had a chance at 18 to match Fitzpatrick and make things interesting for the final group. But even with that disappointment, this week proved that Scheffler can do it on any field, in any tournament, at any time, a terrifying thought for the rest of the field.
LIV golfers were not a factor on the course
…but they will remain a defining story of this tournament. As the week began, the conversation turned to the new LIV tour, the Saudi-funded team hoping to challenge the PGA tour, and the players who had already defected. Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and others were playing in their first tournament since LIV officially started, and observers were curious (a) how they would play on a legitimately challenging course, and (b) how guys like McIlroy and Justin Thomas, who has voiced criticism of the new tour and those who have joined, would discuss the reunion.
Well, there didn’t seem to be any tension during the tournament, though that’s at least partly because none of the LIV players were a factor. Johnson was closer, coming in two shots behind the leader at 2 under on Friday. But he quickly deteriorated from there, shooting 73, 71 and 72 the rest of the way. Mickelson, the undisputed headliner of the bunch, thankfully didn’t make the cut after playing the first two days 11 over par. And DeChambeau arguably fared even worse than him, making the cut only to finish plus-13.
However, despite those efforts, rumors still surfaced of new players likely to embark on LIV. ESPN’s John Sutcliffe reported on Sunday that Mexican golfer Abraham Ancer is moving in, with many speculating whether the likes of Collin Morikawa and Viktor Hovland could soon follow. Whether any of them will actually leave the PGA Tour remains to be seen, but the talk shows none of this will go away anytime soon.