Matt Fitzpatrick may have never made it into top 20 golfers in the world, he may still be looking for that elusive big-tournament win, and a PGA Tour card would be a nice touch as well. And yet, despite everything the baby-faced assassin doesn’t have, there is one thing the Yorkshire youngster retains… and that’s time.
At just 25, the Sheffield-born hitman has his best years in front of him, and that means he can sit back as one arguably the sport’s coolest customer.
Turning professional in 2014, he finished 11th on the European Tour Qualifying School and has been a part of the group ever since. Within a year, he won his first tournament as a professional – the British Masters – earning him a first prize of £500,000 ($647,000).
Further wins followed at the Nordea Masters and the DP World Tour in 2016, and in April of that year he finished a lofty 7th at Augusta for The Masters, completing the season in 32nd place in the world rankings.
Fast forward to 2020, he sits at number 25 in the world and, after representing team Europe in the 2016 Ryder Cup is gunning for inclusion in the 2020 tournament, as he reveals to RSNG…
**RSNG You’re 25 years old and have been a professional since your lowest-amateur performance at the 2014 US Open. What have you learned about yourself since then? MATT FITZPATRICK, PRO GOLFER ‘Well, I do feel that I give some type of a stock answer at the end of each season since turning pro, but I think patience is the key and golf is a strange game sometimes.’
‘When you’re playing a competitive round, you can easily get a hot streak going on and that puts you right back in amongst the players at the right end of the leaderboard.’
‘However, just as you need to do when things aren’t going so well, even when you feel like everything has clicked and you’re in good heart and good form, you have just got to try and stay calm, focused and most importantly, stay ahead of yourself.’
RSNG Pressure doesn’t seem to be an issue? MF ‘Haha! Well, I think I’ve found some good ways of dealing with the pressure. I came from a very grounded, very sensible Yorkshire upbringing and have always believed that things come good in the end.’
‘It would be incredibly arrogant of me to start assuming that because I’d been professional for a few years I should be challenging guys at the top regularly.’
‘It doesn’t work like that, and just as I can see gradual improvement in my game all the time, so too do I recognise that to be consistent in this sport is going to take much more effort from me. Without a doubt I’ll put that effort in, but it’s a long road and I’m totally relaxed doing what I am doing right now.’
RSNG Your team who you work with all of the time nicknamed you ‘The Baby-faced Assassin’ – what was your reaction? MF ‘Haha! I don’t really mind it and I would like to think that that type of nickname is a compliment to me, I suppose. It’s something that gets commented upon quite a lot when I am getting to courses and going through security for the players’ lounges and stuff like that, because they don’t think I’m old enough to be there!’
RSNG Do you feel you’re underestimated? MF ‘I think most people know who I am so probably no. In the past it did help when you would turn up as someone fresh and slightly from the leftfield and other players didn’t know what to expect.’
‘It’s a bit different these days so people know what sort of challenge I can pose if I’m on form and firing.’
I’m not in any rush to play on the PGA Tour – it’s could take a couple more years and there are so many talented players – I know my time will come
RSNG Is the PGA Tour Card is something which you would really like to get and to start playing more regularly in the USA? And if so, is the plan still the same as it was? MF ‘Yeah, I will continue to play in the events that I am able to compete in America and just continue to try to earn as much money as I can, or get my FedEx Cup points as high as I can, or both. I think that could be my best option as opposed to being able to win one of the major tournaments and get an invitation to play on the tour.’
‘But the thing is that I’m not in any rush to achieve that goal - it’s something that could take a couple more years to do and there are so many talented players in the game. I know my time will come. It can take one of those hot streaks I was mentioning at a few events to do that.’
‘Also, I always look forward to playing on the European Tour - it’s strong and there are so many great events on the calendar, so I’m enjoying my golf regardless of where I am playing it, at the moment.’
RSNG How are you approaching 2020? MF ‘Much the same as 2019, which ended up being a good year for me. I had some high finishes and it was the first year in which I made all four cuts in the majors.’
‘It’s about holding your nerve in those big tournaments, and once you nail a few you can use that experience to move forward and that is really at the heart of how to become a better golfer.’
RSNG Even as an amateur though, your record in major tournaments was good. What’s been the major difference? MF ‘For me a huge part was getting away from playing links courses. It is a completely different game when it comes to the types of courses played when pro - it’s usually just about bombing your tee-shot as far as you can and then getting your approach shot as close to the landing area as possible.’
‘You want to fly your ball much higher, and you’re not having to compensate for the wind swirling around, which is a big thing. So it becomes a completely different type of game you’re playing.’
I hit a tee-shot off the 17th at Portrush in the wind and rain – the ball almost went at right-angles and so far right, it was ridiculous!
RSNG At Portrush, a links course, all of that experience from your teens and days before you turned pro must have been useful what with the weather on the day? MF ‘Haha! You could say that. It wasn’t exactly the greatest weather at Portrush, though and there is quite a much-played video of me almost legging it down the 18th to get off the course, quickly. For the final three holes, I just couldn’t keep the ball on the course, and it was horrendous.’
‘I hit a tee-shot off the 17th and it looked okay until it got to about 100 yards and then because the wind and the rain were so strong off the left, the ball almost went at right-angles and so far right, it was ridiculous. Then, my next shot was a seven-wood from about 180, which was short of the green – and it wasn’t even close.’
‘When I played off the tee at 18, it didn’t go anywhere near where I wanted it to, and I was so lucky that it landed before the bunkers. I hit my approach with a 5-iron and that was it, I was just eager to get off the course and away from that weather.’
RSNG How will you put yourself in the shop window for Padraig Harrington in 2020? MF ‘Simply, I have to play well enough and consistently enough over the course of a year to make sure Padraig has no choice but to pick me as part of the 12. It’s as easy as that.’
‘I was obviously disappointed to miss out last time around, but to be totally honest I didn’t think that I had an amazing 2018. In the end, it was down to me needing to win in Denmark to force Thomas’s hand and give him no option but to choose me for the side, and I wasn’t able to finish high enough to warrant that captain’s pick.’
‘But we all step up and fight another day, and that’s what I’m looking forward to.’
WHAT NEXT? Read about another RSNG Young Gun, Connor Smythe…
Then, watch Matt Fitzpatrick play the Super Mulligan.