Fitzpatrick at home on Major stage

Matthew Fitzpatrick did not get his wish to meet Tiger Woods during the 142nd Open Championship trophy ceremony, not that the Sheffield teenager failed to keep up his end of the bargain.

The 18-year-old from Yorkshire, who finished his A-Levels last month before coming through local qualifying down the road from Muirfield at Gullane, left Scotland last night having collected the famous Silver Medal from the R&A after finishing as top amateur.

Fitzpatrick, who missed qualifying for last year’s Open when he suffered an ankle ligament injury, had been hoping world number one Woods might have been there on the 18th green also to collect the Claret Jug, but not everything goes the way you want and the way the amateur conducted himself around Muirfield this week in his major championship debut, one has the feeling he may well be afforded plenty of other chances to mix with the world’s best golfers.

Major champion Fred Couples, who was paired with Fitzpatrick for the final round, certainly thinks so, the American veteran having been impressed by the young Englishman’s game, which has put him in the same bracket as Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Tiger Woods as Silver Medal winners.

“He’s very good,” Couples said. “He doesn’t miss many shots, hits it straight. As he gets bigger, he’ll hit it a little further, but he hits it plenty far.

“But he’s not like one of these crazy bombers that you see. He’s good. At 18 you should putt well. He’s a good putter.”

Fitzpatrick went into the final round tied on nine over par, with the only remaining amateur in the field, Jimmy Mullen, a 19-year-old from Royal North Devon nicknamed the “ginger one-iron”, given his gangly frame topped by a mop of red hair.

Yet as Mullen carded a four-over 75 to finish at 15 over, the baby-faced Fitzpatrick kept it together just a little more for a one-over 72 to finish on 10 over.

“Really proud,” Fitzpatrick said of his final round. “Really proud. What it showed me is I can sort of compete with these guys. But I do know where they are; they are better. The big thing for me that showed today was Fred Couples hit putter from everywhere. He must have holed two from off the green. He putted fantastic. That’s the difference. They hole the long ones. And that’s not quite where I am. I’ve holed one today, so it was a nice bonus.”

With an English Amateur to contest at the end of the month, and a need to earn some much-needed cash with some more babysitting before he heads across the Atlantic to begin a university golf scholarship, Fitzpatrick said the celebrations would be kept to a minimum.

“How I’m celebrating tonight, probably a long four-and-a-half-hour drive home,” he said. “But I’ll probably do something next week. Nothing too stupid.

“And then just, there’s so many things I can remember. I just had a great time. I’d probably say the highlight for me today was on 16, holing the long putt with everyone surrounding the green which was just great.

“It’s just a great feeling when you do hole the putt from a long way, anyways.”

As for the babysitting: “I could do with the money.”

By summer’s end, Fitzpatrick will be a young man going west, to Chicago to begin academic life at Luke Donald’s alma mater, Northwestern University, which he feels is as good a place as any to resist the temptation to cash in on his Open performance and turn professional.

“Going to university is the big thing, and mum and dad make sure education comes first, rather than the golf.

“I’ll do my four years at Northwestern and get a good degree, hopefully. Something to fall back on if the golf doesn’t work out. So that’s really how I’m definitely going, not turning pro anytime soon.”


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