Tuesday 20 March 2018

‘Mondeo Man’ Matt too fast for Lowry

Fitzpatrick: Wire-to-wire winner
Fitzpatrick: Wire-to-wire winner

James Corrigan

Shane Lowry’s bold bid for British Masters honours fell just short at Woburn where young gun Matt Fitzpatrick announced himself in style with his first victory as a professional.

Lowry carded a four-under-par 67 for a 13-under-par total but he could not overhaul Fitzpatrick who closed with a 68 for 15-under and a two-shot victory in a tournament where he was in or close to the lead on all four days.

Crucially, the young Englishman was in front when it mattered most. He finished two ahead of Lowry, Irish Open winner Soren Kjeldsen and Fabrizio Zanotti of Paraguay.

Not only is Fitzpatrick, 21, now the youngest member of the world’s top 100, but he is probably the oldest self-made millionaire who still lives with his parents.

Fitzpatrick admitted he was “humbled” to see his name alongside the likes of Lee Trevino, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Greg Norman, but still this victory felt overdue for the unassuming lad from Sheffield.

He held the advantage from first round to last and afterwards revealed he was not even playing his best.

“I rang Mike [Walker, his coach] every night and we were just trying to fix a couple of things. But today I probably hit it the best I have all week,” Fitzpatrick said.

Starting the day in the joint lead, Fitzpatrick fell two behind the Zanotti and the Dane Kjeldsen. But birdies on the 11th and 12th drew him level before a 20-footer on the par-five 15th gave him a lead he was never to lose.

The £500,000 first prize, together with his four other top-three placings this campaign, means that Fitzpatrick’s earnings have soared above the £1m mark. And despite having won the 2013 US Amateur, that is way more than he envisaged at the start of his year on Tour.

“This year my goal was to keep my card and I was not 100 per cent sure I was going to be able to do that after the start I had, but I managed to start to play well and the past two months have really got going and made a lot of money,” Fitzpatrick said. “But what means more is to me winning with my family watching. Obviously it’s nice to sort of look at the money and be, ‘Right, what do I do with this’. But I’m not in any rush to spend it all but might be looking at a house.”

Fitzpatrick also said that he wants to earn enough to replace his Ford, which is the source of some “banter” in the locker room, with his fellow pros nicknaming him “Mondeo Man”.

Yet this son of a bank manager has a bigger prize in mind. Since playing in the Masters as an amateur two years ago it has been his mission to get back there as a pro. This victory lifts him from 111th in the rankings to the top 65 and within sight of the top 50 placing he requires. He knows what is at stake in the next couple of months.

“If you’re in the top 50 it opens so many doors and my dad says it’s self-perpetuating,” Fitzpatrick said. “The money is bigger, ranking points are bigger and your card is easier to keep. Winning wire to wire is something most players dream of. Jordan Spieth did so when he won the Masters and for me to be in the same category as him is pretty special. I have spent a little time with him (they share apparel sponsors) and I would love to get a text from him.”

Consolation for Lowry, meanwhile, is a second-place cheque for €300,000. Next best of the Irish in a tie for 25th place on six-under after encouraging weeks were Paul Dunne (68) and Niall Kearney (71), who picked up €39,000 each. Graeme McDowell got to 10-under at one point but five dropped shots on the back nine scuppered his hopes. Pádraig Harrington carded a 70 for a three-under-par total.


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