BROOKLINE, Mass. -- The Country Club in Brookline has seen a ton of incredible golf shots in major tournaments during its 140-year history.
Matt Fitzpatrick's approach shot on the 18th hole at the 2022 U.S. Open is one of the very best.
The 27-year-old entered the final hole Sunday with a one stroke lead over Will Zalatoris. Fitzpatrick's tee shot veered left and fell into the bunker. It could have led to a disastrous hole that cost him his first major championship.
Instead of playing it safe, Fitzpatrick hit one of the gutsiest shots you'll ever see in the final hole of a major championship. He went for the green and hit it, setting up a good look at birdie and a strong chance to at least par.
Fitzpatrick did end up making par, and when Zalatoris' potential birdie putt missed, the Englishman had become a major champion.
Zalatoris couldn't help but marvel at Fitzpatrick's iconic approach shot on No. 18.
"Matt's shot on 18 is going to be shown probably for the rest of U.S. Open history because that -- I walked by it, and I thought that going for it was going to be ballsy, but the fact that he pulled it off and even had a birdie look was just incredible," Zalatoris admitted. "So hat's off to him. He played great all week obviously and gave a solid round today."
What made that shot so difficult?
"He had to cut it around kind of an island of rough in the middle of that bunker," Zalatoris explained. "Probably -- I don't know how far he had. I'd say roughly around 160, 170. So he's probably hitting a 7- or a 6-iron and opening it up, carving it off probably left edge of the green. And to get it to be just past pin high, like I said, the fact he had a look was just awesome.
"That's a shot that's going to be shown for -- when they show the highlights of future U.S. Opens, that's one that's going to be shown because that was just incredible."
The decision on how to play that shot was the most important of Fitzpatrick's career. Get it wrong and Zalatoris is probably hoisting the trophy 15 minutes later.
But when Fitzpatrick saw the lie, he knew what had to be done.
"One thing that I've been really struggling with this year is fairway bunker play. Had a good session at US PGA, and my coach kind of helped me a little bit. Still not 100 percent out of it," Fitzpatrick said. "One good thing is the way the lie was is it forced me not to go towards the pin. It kind of forced me to go well left anyway. If I had to hit straight, it was kind of a chip across the green or whatever it was.
"But I just feel like I'm a fast player, and when I look back, it just all happened so fast. It was like just kind of natural ability took over and just played the shot that was at hand, if I was a junior trying to hit it close. And I didn't mean to do that, but I just committed to the shot we kind of planned and came out of it squeezy fade. Yeah, it was amazing."
Fitzpatrick thought as long as he made par, he'd be in pretty good shape.
"I just felt I had to hit the green. If I could hit the green -- if I made par, it puts pressure on Will," Fitzpatrick said. "I knew full well Will was going to hit it close. He's one of the best approach players on Tour. That's the good thing about knowing your stats. Who know who you're playing against.
"I knew he was going to give himself a chance. When I hit that shot, I thought at least I've got a chance too. I was a little worried I gave him the line. I was saying to Billy that I had that putt in the Amateur in the morning session in the final, and I actually really fancied it. I thought it would turn more than it did, and I practiced it in practice as well.
"I think the whole situation, I was just trying -- make a par on 18 and put the pressure on him and force him to make a birdie."
Fitzpatrick's shot will long live in The Country Club lore. He's now the only golfer to win multiple major tournaments at this course. He also won the 2013 U.S. Amateur here. Him and Jack Nicklaus are the only golfers in history to win the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open on the same course.
"This week around The Country Club, I've won around here before. I love playing this golf course," Fitzpatrick said. "It suits me so well. It suits my game well. I've been playing well for a while, and I think it all just fell into place that this was the place it was going to happen."
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