Double Dunhill Links delight for Matt Fitzpatrick on 'weird' Old Course

Matt Fitzpatrick tees off on the 18th hole on the Old Course en route to a three-shot victory in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Picture: Octavio Passos/Getty Images.Matt Fitzpatrick tees off on the 18th hole on the Old Course en route to a three-shot victory in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Picture: Octavio Passos/Getty Images.
Matt Fitzpatrick tees off on the 18th hole on the Old Course en route to a three-shot victory in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Picture: Octavio Passos/Getty Images.
Forget the fact he’d said last year that he is “not really a fan” of the Old Course because it’s a venue that will always now have a special place in Matthew Fitzpatrick’s heart. It was double delight, after all, for the Englishman at St Andrews as he not only landed the coveted individual title but also joined forces with his mum, Susan, to take the team title in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

On a day when it took a miraculous effort to get Carnoustie playable after the Barry Burn burst its banks on Sunday afternoon after a month’s rain had fallen in the space of 40 hours. Fitzpatrick held off challenges from both defending champion Ryan Fox (65) and compatriot Matthew Southgate (66) at St Andrews before then facing a short wait to see if his 19-under-par total could be matched elsewhere.

Another Englishman, Marcus Armitage, did his best to try and force a play-off as he got to within two shots of the lead with three holes to play, but the possibility of him being flown by helicopter from Carnoustie to St Andrews didn’t materialise after a late bogey left him having to settle for a closing 66 and share of second spot with Fox and Southgate.

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It was Fitzpatrick’s ninth DP World Tour title triumph and a three-shot success made amends for letting victory slip from his grasp in last month’s European Masters in Switzerland. Having reached the halfway point out in front after following an opening 67 at Carnoustie a 64 at Kingsbarns, the world No 8 had to wait 63 hours to start his bid to try and finish off the job on this occasion. In the end, it was mission accomplished, but it took a classy display over the last eight holes, which he covered in four-under-par to sign off with a 66.

“St Andrews is a weird course to me,” declared Fitzpatrick, reiterating a point he’d made during the 150th Open last year. “That might be one of my lowest rounds ever here, if not the lowest. I didn’t feel comfortable at all with the driver today and this is a course where you want to feel comfortable with that. I put new irons in this week and they were a complete game-changer. I just felt so much better with them and that was the big thing. I gave myself chances coming in and took them.”

The win, worth £666,834, capped a memorable spell for the 29-year-old after he’d helped Europe regain the Ryder Cup in Rome the previous weekend. “Last week was really special,” he said, having admitted earlier in the week that the triumph at Marco Simone Golf Club had left him with “mixed emotions” due to the fact he’d not played as well as he’d have liked. “To beat the Americans was the goal and that’s what we did and did it really well. That was obviously a great start. Coming into this week was a bit of a freewheel, really, just come and enjoy it with my mum and she played great and I played great, so it worked out great.”

As did the fact play on both Saturday and Sunday was washed out due to the rain starting soon after the action had finished on Friday and not stopping until around noon on Sunday. “The nice thing - luckily and unluckily - is that we got two days off,” said Fitzpatrick, smiling. “I had lots of time to think about it and we were more concerned about if it was going to finish. I wasn’t thinking about winning until this morning. We didn’t get here until Tuesday night as we enjoyed a couple of days in Rome after the Ryder Cup, so I felt pretty rested coming into this week.”

The Sheffield United fan laughed when he was asked how he’d spent the weekend before replying: “Watched my football team lose - again - which was very disappointing. We just stayed in the house on Saturday and, being the person I am, I was looking at my end-of year-stats report trying to figure out what I am going to do in the off-season.”

Before then, he’ll be trying to complete a hat-trick of title triumphs the DP World Tour’s season-ending event. “Well, this has got me in Dubai,” he said of jumping 49 spots to 11th in the Race to Dubai and thereby clinching a spot in next month’s DP World Tour Championship, “which is nice given I love being there and have had success there before.

"I’ll put that in my schedule and also play Tiger’s event (the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas in December) and that will be it. This next period is going to be good for me to get my fitness in a better position and make sure I am injury-free going into next year. It might sound surprising, but I feel I have a lot of work to do on my game.”

Grant Forrest, who started the day one off the lead, closed with a 71 at Carnoustie to finish in a tie for tenth, matching his effort 12 months ago and once again claiming the honour of top Scot on 13-under. David Law’s last-day 64 at Kingsbarns for a 12-under aggregate saw him finish joint-14th, while Bob MacIntyre, Calum Hill and Marc Warren all ended up in a tie for 25th on ten-under.

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MacIntyre signed off with a 65 at St Andrews, having admitted during last year’s Open that he felt it was a course he couldn’t get comfortable on as a left-hander. “We couldn’t have got it any easier than we did today,” he said, smiling, of proving himself wrong. “It was really soft and it was in unbelievable condition. I actually felt I left quite a few out there – before getting to the 14th, I should have been about ten-under-par – but seven under was a decent knock.”

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