Wasn’t it just typical? It was sore enough for Scotland, surely, not to have a single representative among the 60 players in the field for the European Tour’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship. Talk about salt being rubbed into wounds, though, for it to end up in a two-way title battle at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai between two talented young Englishmen.
Step forward Matthew Fitzpatrick and Tyrrell Hatton. At 22 and 25 respectively, they’re the new wave of Tour winners from south of the Border. In coming out on top following a dramatic finish on the Greg Norman-designed Earth Course, Fitzpatrick now has three titles to his name. He’s beaten a 36-year Nick Faldo record – by a margin of 220 days, to be precise – in becoming the youngest Englishman to achieve that impressive feat.
This latest victory came exactly two years to the date that the Yorkshireman secured a seat at the top table in European golf by finishing 11th in the Qualifying School in Spain. The progress he’s made since then is staggering. Those three triumphs have come in just over 13 months. They’ve earned him around £1.85 million, with this success alone worth more than £1 million. He’s set to climb into the world’s top 30 today from 51st. The sky is the limit, really.
“This win means the world,” admitted Fitzpatrick after holding his nerve to roll in a four-foot birdie putt at the last for a closing 67 and a 17-under-par 271 total as he pipped Hatton, pictured, who’d looked set to follow up his Dunhill Links triumph last month until closing with a costly bogey-6, by a shot. “To win one of these Final Series events is really special. Words can’t describe it. It’s not going to sink in for a while. It’s been a special year and then to end it like this with a win is amazing.
“It’s funny, actually, because it’s two years to the date that I got my Tour card after making three birdies in the last five holes. If you think about that, it is crazy. It’s all happened so fast. Now I feel this win gives me confidence to sort of push further and further and see what we can do next year.”
Fitzpatrick, a likeable lad, was driving a Ford Mondeo when he made his breakthrough by becoming the youngest British Masters champion at 21 last October at Woburn. A huge smile appeared on his face when he was asked what his motor is now. “I had a BMW X4 before the dealership gave me a brand-new X5, which I drove from Warrington to home,” said the 2013 US Amateur champion. “Then the insurance company people said they are very high targets for being stolen, to which mum and dad (he stays with his parents in Sheffield) weren’t too keen on having that on their drive. So we sent that one back, and now I’ve got a very nice BMW 3 Series.”
On the course, he’s driving the ball further, as evidenced by the fact this was the sort of course he’d been tipped to have trouble on when his game was often compared to being in the Luke Donald mode. “My two previous wins were with a Callaway driver that was fantastic and very straight,” said Fizpatrick. “But I put a TaylorMade in the bag in China for the last three rounds (in the WGC-HSBC Champions) and then put it in the last three rounds at Nedbank and all four this week. It’s made a big difference but, in the last three months, I’ve also been working really hard in the gym with my trainer, Kev Duffy, and that’s paid off, as well.”
The future of English golf certainly looks bright. Hatton, after all, looks as though he’s got the taste for titles now as well. This one hurt in the end. Fair play to him, though, for being the first to congratulate his compatriot. “It’s a bitter pill to swallow,” he admitted, having found water from the tee at the last after saving par with a holed bunker shot at the 17th. “But it’s been the best year of my life, so I can’t get too downbeat.” Indeed, he jumped above Rory McIlroy to finish fourth in the Race to Dubai.