Fitzpatrick quietly confident heading into US Open title defense

US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick doesn’t think his game is quite where it was when he won his breakthrough major title last year, but that hasn’t dented his confidence heading into his title defense at Los Angeles Country Club.

“I think it’s obviously been a huge boost,” Fitzpatrick said of his triumph last year at Brookline, the same venue where he won the US Amateur in 2013.

He finished one stroke ahead of Scottie Scheffler and Will Zalatoris to become the first English US Open champion since Justin Rose nine years prior.

“I think for me winning last year gave me the boost that when I played my best or when I play well I can compete with anyone and I can win a major,” Fitzpatrick said. “As long as my game is there or thereabouts, I feel like I can perform.”

“Thereabouts” might best describe Fitzpatrick’s game in a 2023, a year he kicked off with a seventh-placed finish in the Tournament of Champions in January before he was slowed by shoulder and neck trouble.

After finishing tied for 10th at the Masters Fitzpatrick held off Jordan Spieth in a playoff to win the RBC Heritage in April, but missed the cut at the PGA Championship and was tied for 20th last week at the Canadian Open.

“I feel like the start of the year, I had a good obviously first event in Hawaii and then got injured, and that kind of felt like it set me back quite a bit for February and March,” Fitzpatrick said. “I ended up obviously playing well in April.

“I feel like my game is kind of getting in the right place. I certainly felt like Memorial and last week I was playing some good golf.

“I didn’t necessarily score too well last week, but again, I had a slight flare-up on the Friday afternoon with my neck.

“I definitely feel like my game is in better shape. I certainly don’t think it’s as good as it was last year.”

If Fitzpatrick needs any extra motivation to step it up this week, perhaps it will come from the pang he felt at handing back his US Open trophy after its year in his possession.

“I was so sad about that,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I spent enough time with it, really.”

He’s not sure he really treated the trophy to enough excitement, although he took it with him on holiday to Italy and for a victory lap at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane.

“It went a few places,” he said. “I just can’t believe it’s been a year already.

“It’s just gone so fast, and to kind of look around and remember that all this build-up was the same at Brookline, it’s just very odd.”


© Agence France-Presse