Matt Fitzpatrick of England is a champion again at The Country Club, this time with the grandest of trophies in golf.
A US Amateur champion in 2013. The US Open champion Sunday.
In a three-way battle at Brookline that came down to the wire, Fitzpatrick seized control with a great break and an even better shot on the 15th hole for a two-shot swing. He was just as clutch from a fairway bunker on the 18th that set up par for a 2-under 68.
Masters champion Scottie Scheffler never recovered from back-to-back bogeys to start the back nine that cost him the lead. He had a 25-foot birdie chance on the 18th that just missed and left him one behind with a 67.
Canada’s Adam Hadwin finished tied for seventh at 1-under 279 for the tournament.
Along with the $3.15 million US in prize money, Fitzpatrick had that gold Jack Nicklaus medal draped around his neck, which was only fitting.
WATCH | Fitzpatrick takes US Open win:
Fitzpatrick is the second man to win a US Amateur and US Open on the same course, joining Nicklaus, who turned the trick at Pebble Beach. July Inkster won the US Women’s Amateur and US Women’s Open at Prairie Dunes.
Fitzpatrick, who briefly played at Northwestern before turning pro, won for the eighth time worldwide, and this was his first in America — at least a tournament everyone knows about. He won the member-member at The Bear’s Club in Florida at the start of the year, the course Nicklaus built.
“He gave me a bit of abuse at the start of the year. He said, `Finally. Congratulations for winning in the States,”‘ Fitzpatrick said.
And then slightly lifting the trophy, Fitzpatrick sent a fun message to Nicklaus: “Jack, I won a second time.”
It took a good break, a signature shot and some guts at the end.
Fitzpatrick and Zalatoris were tied going to the 15th when the Englishman hit his tee shot so far right that it went into the gallery and found a decent lie on grass that was dead and trampled. Zalatoris missed by only a few yards and was buried in deep grass.
He hit 5-iron from 220 yards to 18 feet below the hole. Zalatoris went into the front bunker, blasted out to 25 feet and made bogey. Fitzpatrick took a two-shot lead when his birdie putt went into the cup with such perfect pace it didn’t even touch the pin he leaves in the cup.
It looked like a playoff was eminent — the previous three US Opens at Brookline were all decided by a playoff — and then Fitzpatrick fearless hit a fade with a 9-iron that carried the gaping bunker in front of the green and settled 18 feet away.
He narrowly missed and could only watch as Zalatoris missed his last chance.
“Matt’s shot on 18 is going to be shown probably for the rest of US Open history,” Zalatoris said. “I walked by it, and I thought that going for it was going to be ballsy. But the fact that he pulled it off and even had a birdie look was just incredible.
“So hat’s off to him. He played great all week obviously and gave a solid round today.”
Fitzpatrick finished at 6-under 134.
‘It did, and I took it’
The 27-year-old Fitzpatrick, the first Englishman since Justin Rose in 2013 to win the US Open, felt his time was coming. He is meticulous in charting his shots and keeps a record of all of them to identify what needs work. And he emphasized speed in his swing over the last two years, giving him the length and the belief to compete with anyone.
That didn’t make Sunday any easier, a three-man race from the start when Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy fell back and never rejoined the mix.
Fitzpatrick and Zalatoris, who shared the 54-hole lead, each had a two-shot lead at one point.
The 25-year-old from Dallas suddenly had a two-shot lead. He also couldn’t keep the ball in the fairway, and it cost him with a dropped shot on No. 12. And then came another big turning point, with Fitzpatrick holing a 50-foot birdie putt across the 13th green. Zalatoris did well to make his 15-footer for par and they headed for the tense conclusion.
Scheffler was still hanging around in his bid for a second major this year, but everyone else became a distant memory. Hideki Matsuyama had the low round of the week at 65, but he finished at 3-under 277, and that was never going to be good enough.
In the end, it was Fitzpatrick sharing hugs with his family on the green, including younger brother Alex, who caddied for him in the US Amateur and recently turned pro.
And there was his caddy, Billy Foster, one of the most popular, long-serving loopers in Europe who had never been on the bag for a major until Sunday.
“Billy said it for a while to keep doing what you’re doing and the chance will come,” Fitzpatrick said. “It did, and I took it.”