How Matt Fitzpatrick Defied the Odds to Win His 1st Major (By Marissa Kasch)
At 5’10 and 155 pounds, Matt Fitzpatrick wasn’t exactly the favorite to win the U.S. Open. In fact, he opened at +5000 odds to win last July. He cut these odds in half this year, with +2500 odds to win before the first day of the tournament this year. Though his odds vastly improved, he was still a dark horse to win the U.S. Open in the world of sports betting.
As his round continued at The Country Club in Brookline, his odds only got better as he showed the world what he was capable of. Fitzpatrick, sorry Fitzmagic’s, unique stature hardly inhibited him at Brookline, which was especially evident during his last round where he drove the green on a par 4, putted for eagle on a par 5, and hit 17 greens in regulation. The best part of it all is that he made all of this look effortless.
I used to play golf pretty competitively myself, and in my best rounds there was always one common denominator. People would approach me after my round and told me that my play looked relaxed and effortless. And they were absolutely right. When I was hitting the ball the farthest and sticking pins the closest, my swing felt effortless and my game felt calm.
Despite his shorter stature and thinner frame, Fitzpatrick stood like a giant at Brookline as he effortlessly climbed the leaderboard.
Though there are several factors that determine distance, most golfers know that the name of the game is swing speed rather than pure strength. Obviously, Fitzpatrick isn’t flexing huge muscles beneath his polo, but his U.S. Open win shows how little that matters when your club head speed averages 117 mph off the tee.
Rory McIlroy, one of the most consistent tour players this year, mimics Fitzpatrick’s build, weighing in at 160 pounds and standing at 5’9. His average club head speed off the tee is 122 mph, and the results speak for themselves. Rory extended a special congratulations to Fitzpatrick after his victory, commending him on his dedication to improve his swing speed over the past few years.
Believe it or not, just three years ago, he lingered outside the top 100 in the PGA for swing speed, averaging 112 mph. This was clearly unsatisfactory for Fitzpatrick, which prompted him to purchase a $350 training aid, called The Stack. In a press conference following his U.S. Open victory, he credited his success to The Stack, which increased his speed nearly 5 mph, allowing him to hit the ball farther.
The Stack works by putting different weights at the end of a standard-length club in order to change the total mass, center of gravity, and inertia of the club with the goal being to increase swing speed in various club conditions. The Stack System also comes equipped with an app, complete with artificial intelligence in order to tailor the perfect regimen for the golfer in question.
Part of Fitzpatrick’s success can certainly be attributed to The Stack (do I sense an endorsement coming?), but the rest can be credited to his meticulous practice regime. He tracks every Stack session in his app, analyzing each individual swing. He’s kept a record of each shot he hits in a spreadsheet since he was 15, including when he plays a round with friends. Now that’s dedication.
Fitzpatrick’s dedication and faith in The Stack isn’t the only thing that sets him apart from competitors. He actually takes an unorthodox approach to a number of specifics in golf. There wasn’t much opportunity to see Fitzpatrick’s short game aside from putting this weekend, considering the fact that he hit 17 greens in regulation during his final round, the day he got the most coverage.
However, if you did manage to catch a glimpse of his short game last weekend, you’d see that he chips cross-handed, which is not something you see very often. In the interest of what you probably did see, he also putts with the flagstick in unlike most other tour players. Clearly, leaving the flagstick in hasn’t negatively affected his putting performance. Lastly, in a pleasantly surprising fashion, Fitzpatrick does not dilly-dally. He just gets up there and as the tagline of The Sportsletter reads, “Letter Rip!”. Even on hole 18 of his final round, perhaps his most crucial shot of the weekend, he stepped into the fairway bunker and wasted no time swinging the club. Of course, he faded the 9-iron perfectly and stuck it 18 feet from the hole.
There were many things that could be confused as fate or divine intervention for Fitzpatrick this weekend. The most prominent of these was probably where he and his family stayed during their time in Brookline. Will Fulton, the chairman at The Country Club for the U.S. Open offered his house to the Fitzpatrick family for a second time. The first was when Fitzpatrick won the U.S. Amateur at The Country Club in 2013. By the way, the only other male golfer to win the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open at the same course was Jack Nicklaus. So, I’d say he’s already in pretty elite company after winning his first major.
Staying with the same person in the same place may have been construed as “good juju” to some. But make no mistake, he didn’t need a good luck charm or superstition to win the U.S. Open: Fitzpatrick is creating his own magic. His work ethic and meticulous dedication to improving his game is what led him to his first major win, and the way he’s playing, I’d say it’s the first of many.
Photo: David Cannon / Getty Images