Matt Fitzpatrick returns to win RBC Heritage with a thrilling finish

Fitzpatrick after winning on the third hole of the playoffs against Spieth - Getty Images

Fitzpatrick after winning on the third hole of the playoffs against Spieth – Getty Images

What a way for Matt Fitzpatrick to score his first win since last June’s US Open glory. Not only did he take on Jordan Spieth in the RBC Heritage, but the Englishman did it with one of the big shots in a PGA Tour play-off.

If a club swing could ever be deemed worthy of the ridiculous £3 million top prize in North Carolina – Jon Rahm’s check for winning the Masters the previous Sunday was actually £200,000 short – it was the nine iron of Fitzpatrick on the third extra hole. The bold par four approach launched a few feet above the bunker guarding the green and rolled up to within inches.

It was clinical and brutal, and somewhere the European Ryder Cup captain, Luke Donald, was screaming with glee. When the hosts look to win the trophy back in Rome later this year, Donald should have Fitzpatrick’s miracle looping in the squad room. Young Americans are brilliant, no doubt. But the quiet son of a bank manager has just reiterated that they are not unbeatable.

If any critics – perhaps the United States – had any doubts about the quality of the 28-year-old or the strength of Sheffield’s steel, then this unnerving performance in the “elevated” $20 million event must remove any question marks. Fitzpatrick’s poor form in the opening months of the season certainly looks blessed in the rear view mirror.

After posting a very respectable 10th at the Masters when he arrived in Georgia fearing he might lose his cut, Fitzpatrick built on that radically improved performance to prevail in his “second favorite course” to follow up his breakthrough at the US Open in 10 months does.

They always say the next win after a major is so important and considering the opposition and how they prevailed, that must go doubly true for Fitzpatrick. There were 21 of the top 25 in the world in the field at this “designated event”.

The resonance of the place shouldn’t be underestimated either. It may not be Brookline — the historic Boston layout where Fitzpatrick won the US Amateur and then the US Open — but he was first brought to Harbor Town by his parents when he was six and still wears a replica of the headdress in his bag of the iconic camp lighthouse.

“I was telling Billy [Foster, his caddie] that it doesn’t get any better than that,” said Fitzpatrick. “I came here as a kid with my parents and brother and I just fantasized about playing here one day in a big competition. arrived.

A vacation in 1991, a dream day in 2023. Fitzpatrick climbs to number 8 in the world, his highest ranking ever, and with another huge scalp on his CV.

While the plaid jacket Fitzpatrick was presented with was, of course, nowhere near the garment status of the green jacket worn by Ryder Cup teammate Rahm, Fitzpatrick will take plenty. And not just the outrageous payday.

Spieth looked all over the blockbuster defending champion as he played the first 13 holes five-under to overhaul Fitzpatrick’s overnight lead. However, Fitzpatrick scored 15th and 16th to level the level and at 17-under – after a 66 for Spieth and a 68 for Fitzpatrick – they struggled with Patrick Cantlay at third behind.

Spieth had a chance to bury it in the first two holes of sudden death, but it didn’t go unanswered to Fitzpatrick’s touch of magic.

“Matt golfed amazing coming in,” Spieth said. “I had a couple of putts to win that playoff and I don’t know how the one on the first hole of the playoffs didn’t get in.

“I think if I hit the same putt 10 times, it goes eight times. It just wasn’t meant to be. Matthew was amazing.

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