The second-highest ranked golfer in the world without a PGA Tour victory in his career finally claimed one Sunday while simultaneously breaking through golf's upper echelon with his first major championship. Matt Fitzpatrick won the 2022 U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, on Sunday with two birdies and no bogeys across the final seven holes to clinch the tournament at 6 under.
Fitzpatrick, 27, edged his 54-hole co-leader Will Zalatoris and 2022 Masters champion Scottie Scheffler by one stroke to hoist the trophy.
Having previously won the 2013 U.S. Amateur at The Country Club, Fitzpatrick added to his USGA total in dramatic fashion with a victory at the 122nd U.S. Open. In doing so, he joined Jack Nicklaus and Juli Inkster as the only players to win the two championships at the same venue, solidifying his spot in the annals of golf history.
The No. 18 player on the Official World Golf Rankings, Fitzpatrick broke through Sunday after what had already been a strong season at major championships. The Englishman previously finished T14 at the Masters in April and T5 at the PGA Championship last month.
Still, it had not been an easy road for Fitzpatrick to this point, and his final round at The Country Club was a perfect encapsulation of this. Whether he would choose to admit it or not, doubt had to creep in as he missed opportunities to win events over the years.
A player who had always thrived due to his blend of accuracy and putting prowess, Fitzpatrick came into 2022 as a completely retooled player. That was evident this week as the name of the game for Fitzpatrick was consistency. While others went out with notably low rounds early in the tournament, he shot 2 under across the first 36 holes with an even-par 70 on Friday before posting a second 68 on Moving Day to take the co-lead.
Fitzpatrick was up and down across the front nine Sunday, and two bogeys to start the back made it appear as if he would once again sit on the outside of a trophy presentation.
A short miss on the par-4 10th was followed by an inexplicable three-putt on the short par-3 11th. A quick three-stroke swing with Zalatoris breathing down his neck could have left Fitzpatrick reeling. A career filled with close calls could have added another, but instead of withering, Fitzpatrick began to thrive.
An emphatic birdie on the par-4 13th put Fitzpatrick back into a share of the lead with Zalatoris at 5 under. Two holes later, after missing the fairway, Fitzpatrick hit one of the best iron shots of the day to set up a birdie look on the lengthy par-4 15th. With Zalatoris in for bogey, Fitzpatrick walked in his third and momentarily grabbed a two-stroke lead.
Though Zalatoris and Scheffler both pulled within one after converting birdies down the stretch, Fitzpatrick never let up.
After trading pars with Zalatoris on the accessible 17th, Fitzpatrick went to the 72nd hole with a one-stroke edge and made the only error you could not make when he found the fairway bunker off the tee. He took it on the chin, following the miscue with a career-defining shot onto the green that set up his U.S. Open triumph. Fitzpatrick missed an 18-foot birdie putt to clinch the win, but Zalatoris missed a similar 14-foot putt by a hair as Fitzpatrick posted his third 68 of the tournament and first PGA Tour victory.
"If there was one shot that I've struggled with this year that I just do not want, it's a fairway bunker shot," said Fitzpatrick of his approach into the 72nd hole. "I guess [caddie] Billy [Foster] just took over. It's one of the best shots I've hit of all-time. When I saw it leave the sand and I felt the strike, I couldn't be happier."
Fitzpatrick's approach also drew praise from one of the game's greats.
"That shot [he] played out of the fairway bunker on 18 was one of the great iron shots under pressure I've ever seen," wrote Nicklaus on Twitter. "[Matt] and I have talked a few times at The Bear's Club about him winning in the United States. Today he got it done and in grand fashion, winning the best of them all--the U.S. Open! I am confident many more victories will follow."
The U.S. Open is often and rightfully described as "the most difficult test in golf." Most believe that to be the case due to the conditions. They certainly play a role, but the mental challenge the USGA sets forth far exceeds them. Competing in the U.S. Open is truly is a rollercoaster of emotions, and one tiny misstep can be one's eventual downfall.
Fitzpatrick had his fair share of miscues on Sunday, but he took the punches like a champion. In the process, he shed the moniker he saddled for so long, silencing his doubters and reigning atop the sport with the national championship trophy.
"No words," Fitzpatrick said after hoisting the trophy. "It's what you grow up dreaming of. It's something I've worked so hard for — for such a long time — it was a big monkey on my back trying to win [in the United States]. That's all everyone talked about was that. To do it with a major for my first win, there's nothing better."
Rick Gehman, Patrick McDonald and Kyle Porter recap the 2022 U.S. Open. Follow & listen to The First Cut on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Here is the breakdown of the rest of the leaderboard at the 2022 U.S. Open
T2. Will Zalatoris and Scottie Scheffler (-5): It is a game of inches after all, and when Zalatoris and Scheffler both narrowly missed birdie opportunities on the 72nd hole, Fitzpatrick became your U.S. Open champion. It was a valiant effort by Zalatoris, who after making bogey on the par-4 15h added a birdie on the 16th and gave himself two more realistic opportunities coming in. It wasn't meant to be, but I would not be shocked if his first victory -- much like Fitzpatrick's -- comes at a major championship as he now has three runner-up results in only nine appearances and top 10s at all seven majors at which he played the weekend.
"Will is a really talented player. He's strong mentally. That's why he performs so well," said Scheffler of his good friend. "It just so happens the last two majors he's been up against great champions in Fitzy and Justin Thomas. It's one of those deals where you keep knocking on the door and keep putting yourself in position, and he'll come through. I'm sure he'll win one of these when it's all said and done."
4. Hideki Matsuyama (-3): A 5-under 65, the low round of the day, pushed the former Masters champion into contention when he was an afterthought for most of the week. It has been a weird year for Matsuyama as he has battled injury, been disqualified and now finished inside the top five in a major championship. "Yes, to be honest, I don't feel like this is my 100% performance, but it does give me a lot of boost on my confidence," said Matsuyama. "So, I'll try my best, try to connect this momentum to my next game, and I'll be prepared for it."
T5. Collin Morikawa and Rory McIlroy (-2): If you told Morikawa at the beginning of the week that he would have signed for three rounds in the 60s, he would have taken it in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, a 77 in the third round -- his worst score at a major championship -- derailed his U.S. Open aspirations. However, his play at The Country Club marked yet another strong finish in a major. In 11 major appearances, the 25-year-old has two victories, two top-five finishes and another top-10 result for good measure. He now sets his sights on St. Andrews for The Open Championship where he hopes to successfully defend his title.
"I don't know if I found something. I think it just taught me that just go play golf," said Morikawa, who was insistent his game was not where he wanted it to be for most of the championship. "This year has been so much focused on trying to hit that cut and trying to be so perfect, and that's who I am, but just go out and play. Things are going to be tough, ball is not going to go exactly where you want, but just figure it out."
McIlroy, meanwhile, was rolling entering the weekend at 4 under, but a third-round 73 put him far enough behind the leaders that he needed to minimize his mistakes Sunday to have a shot. Instead, she shot the first 11 holes in 1 over, and two birdies down the stretch were not enough to put him in contention. Rory, who is playing some of his best golf in years, is still seeking his first major championship since 2014.