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I didn’t mention Matt Fitzpatrick when I was talking about favorites to win the U.S. Open, but he shouldn’t have been considered an underdog. After all the Britisher was the #18 player in the world.
It is very rare for a professional golfer’s first win to be a major tournament. In fact this is only the third time it’s been done in the modern era. Ben Curtis won the 2003 British Open to pick up his debut win. Keegan Bradley triumphed in the 2011 PGA for his first professional win and now Fitzpatrick makes it three with his first win on the PGA Tour.
To find the other golfers who picked up a first victory which happened to be a major tournament, you have to go way back to 1913 for Francis Ouimet, who won the U.S. Open as a 20 year old amateur. Strangely enough he won the U.S. Open in 1925. Fred Herd was the least experienced of all the winners in major championship history. He played in only four majors total. All four were the U.S. Open, but he won the first one he played in in 1898. Horace Rawlins won the first U.S. Open ever played in 1895. Eleven players were in the field and his winning score was 91-82 to claim a two stroke victory over Willie Dunn. Willie Park, Sr., won the first British Open ever contested in 1860. Eight golfers entered. He went on to win the Open championship four times, his brother Mungo Park won once and his son Willie Park Jr., won twice. So Fitzpatrick is in some very elite company.
In case you missed the final round of the U.S. Open this year – You don’t win a U.S. Open without a little bit of luck and this year’s tournament provided the drama too. The 13th hole was the turning point when Fitzpatrick holed a 48 foot putt. This was after bogies at ten and eleven. Another birdie on 15 moved him to -6 for the tournament and a one shot lead. Zalatoris who was playing alongside Fitzpatrick still had a chance being one down with one hole to play. Then Fitzpatrick hit the shot of his life from a left-hand fairway bunker to the center of the green.
When Zalatoris missed his birdie, Fitzpatrick just needed two putts for the win. Zalatoris and the #1 player in the world Scottie Scheffler, tied for second a shot back.
Matsuyama fired a final round 66 to place 4th. McIlroy finished 5th.
With the win Fitzpatrick picks up a check for $3.15 million, a ten year exemption from qualifying in the U.S. Open and a five year exemption from the other majors including the players championship. He’ll also pick up 100 world ranking points which vaults him to number ten in the world. Fitzpatrick also earns 500 FedEx Cup points and no Monday morning Qualifying rounds for the next five years.
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