Matt Fitzpatrick aiming to mend Ryder Cup heartache with maiden PGA Tour win
Matt Fitzpatrick is determined to keep moving on from recent Ryder Cup heartache and maintain his encouraging individual form as he goes in search of a first PGA Tour victory in the Butterfield Bermuda Championship.
The 27-year-old made it two Ryder Cup appearances without a point as part of the Europe team who were defeated 19-9 at Whistling Straits, losing his singles match from one up with three to play against Daniel Berger, as the United States sealed a record margin of victory.
Despite the disappointment, the Englishman showed no ill effects after a two-week break, holding off the challenge of Swede Sebastian Soderberg and Australia’s Lee Min Woo, to card a bogey-free 69 to finish at six under and clinch a three-shot victory at the Andalucia Masters.
He is now aiming to build on that momentum across the four-day tournament at Port Royal Golf Course, starting tomorrow, and prove why he is rightly being considered the favourite from the stellar 132-player field.
“The Ryder Cup defeat was obviously hugely disappointing,” said Fitzpatrick, who was also part of the 17-11 defeat in the US in 2016. “I guess what is particularly disappointing is that people only tend to only focus on the overall result because that is all that really matters.
“Obviously on personal note it hurt to take no points because I felt I played well but once again came away with nothing to show for it. It felt different to in 2016 where I never felt I had a crack at getting a point, I played well but I was beaten by someone playing better than me.
“However, I felt my game was definitely going in the direction and I tried to take the positives away just as I did in 2016. I took some days off and tried to think of nothing to do with golf in the lead up to Spain.
“The aim was to try and continue what I believed to be good individual form and it all worked out perfectly. Obviously I was delighted to get a victory in my first tournament back.
“It made me feel validated and that was a huge thing. It’s also given me confidence going into the end of this year and hopefully I can take that forward and keep going. I’m really looking forward to this week and competing again.”
As well as a gaining sense of validation, just as significantly, Fitzpatrick learnt a number of valuable personal lessons from his Andalucia Masters triumph, which should stand him in good stead as he attempts to finally claim that elusive maiden PGA Tour success.
“I went into the last tournament just wanting to play well and most of all just enjoy it, that was the big thing,” added Fitzpatrick, who like all other competitors has the added incentive of vying for the full allocation of 500 FedEx Cup points and an increased prize purse of $6.5 million. “I felt calm the entire tournament and didn’t lose my head at any point.
“On that course you have to be on it for all 72 holes and it taught me a lot about my mentality and having patience with my game. I have to try enjoy it more and try not to care so much if it’s a case of being blunt.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been considered a favourite for an event before but I have learnt from past experience that it doesn’t work out well the more personal pressure I put on myself.
“I have to just take everything in my stride and block everything else out. It’s obviously easy when things are going well but when they aren’t I have to keeping working at it. I’m trying to have that consistency throughout my game and if I can approach tournaments with a level head it could lead to that first PGA Tour win.
“Also having the standard points on offer is obviously another big draw. It’s a great chance to get my next season up and running.”
That consistent approach will be further put to the test this week, with Fitzpatrick already well aware of the disciplined approach required across the varying and unpredictable nature of Port Royal.
“I’ve only had a day or so to see the course but I’ve already noticed there are some tough elevation changes and a lot of holes that have blind approaches up hill,” he said. “It certainly seems that a lot of mental preparation is involved because you have to be disciplined and know your distances.
“You have to constantly think your way around and be on it for all 72 holes, but thankfully I enjoy that part of the game. I’ve seen the average winning total here has been around 16 under and so that will be the number to compete.
“I can see there are a lot of tough holes but also some scorable ones, so if I can stick those I should be in good shape.
“I’ve had a lot of good feedback from people who like it here and so I’m really looking forward to it.”
• Defending champion Brian Gay endured less than ideal preparation to his title defence after he was unable to board his flight to Bermuda from Charlotte on Monday because the plane being too heavy.
Owing to the weight limitations, the 49-year-old, who won last year’s event in a thrilling play-off against Wyndham Clark, was forced to wait until yesterday to before departing.
Having been due to arrive late afternoon, Gay’s practice time at Port Royal could be limited to just nine holes in today’s Pro-Am tournament ahead of teeing off tomorrow in the first round of the championship.
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