The strange case of Matt Fitzpatrick: Can the Englishman begin contending in the Majors?

He’s proved himself at DP World Tour level and last week tied his career-best result on the PGA Tour, but the Sheffield golfer has a dire record in the tournaments that define a career.

In winning the 2013 US Amateur Championship, shortly after claiming the Silver Medal for Low Amateur at the Open, Matt Fitzpatrick announced himself as a British (and European) golfer to watch out for.

He's gone on to claim seven DP World Tour titles - and twice represent Europe in the Ryder Cup - yet the 27-year-old has a problem: he's never yet transferred his best golf onto the sport's greatest stages.

Given that he is a two-time winner of the DP World Tour Championship - an event played on a long course with a high-quality field - this is very much an enigma.

As is the fact that his best performance on the PGA Tour came in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, an event which is purposely given a "major-like" set-up. 

He was second there in 2019 and his third place in the 2020 Memorial Tournament reads well too - another course crafted by a great of the game (Jack Nicklaus) with a distinctly penal nature.

Last week, in bleak weather and with difficult course conditions, he equalled that PGA Tour career-best with second in the Wells Fargo Championship, a seventh top 20 (and fifth top 10) in 2022.

It all adds to the riddle: he's good, he's very good, but he's not transferring that quality to the Majors: he has just one top 10 (and no top five) in 27 starts.

Let's dig deep to see if we can see the woods for the trees (for what it is worth, the Yorkshireman is very good between trees).

On the DP World Tour

Fitzpatrick's first win came at the 2015 British Masters, he's a two-time winner of the European Masters, he also has that brace in Dubai, and most recently he won the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama.

In recent times, his record in regular European Tour events is absolutely superb with his last 30 starts reaping three wins and another six runner-up finishes.

One top-two finish in more or less every third start is quite clearly a ratio not to be sniffed at.

The problems start when he ventures up the golfing ladder.

The World Golf Championship

In 22 starts the Englishman has registered 11 top 20s, five of them top 10s.

He has led the field at halfway in 2019's St Jude Invitational and HSBC Champions, and didn't fade away disastrously at the weekend (both times finishing top seven).

The WGC is a step-up from regular PGA and European Tour level, but what of Fitzpatrick at the very top?

In the "fifth Major" (THE PLAYERS Championship) has did finish tied ninth in 2021, but it is his only top 40 finish in six starts.

What of the real Majors?

Masters

The good news: having missed the cut on debut as an amateur in 2014, he finished tied seventh on debut as a professional.

The bad news: that remains his best effort in any Major and he was never in-contention for the Green Jacket. Instead, he flashed four birdies in the final five holes to end his week in style.

He's made the cut in each of his six visits since then and this year recorded a second top 20 (T14th). 

He's three times signed for a 67, his only sub-70 scores in 30 laps of Augusta National - and 17 of his scores have been over-par.

PGA Championship

The worst section of his Major Championship CV, showing six starts, three missed cuts and just one top 40 finish.

That best effort was in 2021, when T23rd at Kiawah Island, but he seems to have real difficulty with the first day in this tournament. He averages 74.00 in round one and has only once been inside the cut mark on Thursday evening.

In all, he has gone sub-70 twice in 18 circuits and needed 72 or more 10 times.

US Open

If the Masters has witnessed his best finish, the US Open probably boasts Fitzpatrick's best all-round record.

He's 6-for-7 at making the cut and, unlike the PGA, he doesn't end the first round in a scrap to make the weekend: he's six times been inside the cut mark heading out on Friday.

Once again, he struggles to make headway, recording just three sub-70 scores in 26 laps and has too many big scores: 14 of those scores were 72 or worse.

Only two of his weekends have reaped top 30s, but they were both T12th, in 2018 and 2019. Both times he was in the top 25 all week (but also both times already seven shots back of the lead after 36 holes).

The Open

His home Major, but there has been little to cheer with four cuts made from six starts and a best of T20th at Royal Portrush in 2019.

Five sub-70 scores from 20 rounds is his best ratio of Major low-scoring, but again the poor score drag him back: 11 totals of 72 or more.

Getting into contention

Looked at individually, Fitzpatrick's record in the four Majors is clearly poor and it's striking that he has a desperate record in not only ending a week with a good result, but also threatening to do so.

In his 27 Majors, he has a best 54-hole position of T13th (at the 2021 PGA Championship), one of only three top 20s at that stage.

Majors are won (with a handful of exceptions) by players in the top six with 18 holes to play and Majors are also most often won by players who have prior experience of being in the top six over the weekend.

Fitzpatrick has zero knowledge of the latter which massively handicaps his future hopes of joining the ranks of the former.

Conclusion

The bleeding obvious is that he needs to start getting into contention more often.

His wins in his home tour's end-of-season finale, up against quality fields, indicate that he doesn't lack for nerve - and contending in the WGC is a good sign, too.

But for some reason (preparation, hype, expectation, shot trajectory, course set-up) the career-defining tests cause him problems.

It's not all doom and gloom, however. That US Amateur win came at The Country Club in Massachusetts and guess what? That's where this year's US Open is being held.

It's time he landed another Major top 10 and that week offers him a great opportunity.

READ MORE: Revealed: The weakness that has stopped Rory McIlroy winning a Major since 2014

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