Matt Fitzpatrick will finally get chance to shine in Ryder Cup as reaches career high
The Englishman qualified automatically for both the 2016 match at Hazeltine then the 2021 encounter at Whistling Straits, yet both ended up being miserable weeks for him and not only because Europe suffered heavy defeats on each occasion. At Hazeltine under Darren Clarke’s captaincy, Fitzpatrick didn’t play at all on the opening day then lost alongside Henrik Stenson in the morning foursomes on day two before being dropped again then succumbing to Zach Johnson in the singles. With Lee Westwood as his partner both times, the Yorkshireman then suffered two foursomes losses in Padraig Harrington’s team at Whistling Straits, where he also tasted defeat in the singles, this time at the hands of Daniel Berger.
In case you haven’t worked it out, Fitzpatrick hasn’t yet played in the fourballs in the biennial encounter and that had already been a lingering sore with the player himself after the first occasion. “I tried to forget Hazeltine pretty quickly,” he admitted. “I would have liked to have played a fourball match before my singles just to play my own ball, to see what it is like in competition. I played one foursomes on the Saturday morning. It's like the equivalent of playing nine holes, really, and there's no flow or rhythm to it, so you never really get what it's like.”
Fitzpatrick made those remarks at Whistling Straits, where he’d been hoping the same thing wouldn’t happen again but, due to the fact it did, he again found himself heading into the singles feeling under-cooked in terms of the additional pressure the final session presents. In short, Fitzpatrick hasn’t really had the opportunity yet to do himself justice in European colours, but, boy, is that going to change in the 44th edition of the Ryder Cup.
As a major winner, having made that big breakthrough, of course, when landing the US Open last June, his status had already been elevated since that last match against the Americans and he’s now up to a career-high eighth in the Official World Golf Ranking. There’s an edge to Fitzpatrick that’s part of why he’s arguably the most-improved player in the game over the last couple of years. At last year’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, he was still hurting after being beaten by Bob MacIntyre in a play-off a couple of weeks earlier in the Italian Open and certainly didn’t try to hide that.
As you’d expect from a Sheffield man, there’s a steely side to him and, along with the likes of Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy, Fitzpatrick will have a huge role to play for Donald later this year as he bids to claim back the Ryder Cup for Europe. Donald was quick to congratulate his compatriot for landing a first PGA Tour title, describing his success on Sunday as “amazing”, while Edoardo Molinari, one of his vice-captains for Rome, posted a tweet that should resonate with countless European players. “You are an example to anyone that aspires to be a top professional player and you have taught me a lot of things about golf in the last three years,” wrote the former Scottish Open champion – and he is absolutely spot on.
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