ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Matthew Fitzpatrick is back in the U.K., back to playing the links-style courses he loves.
Well, not really.
“[M]y personal favorite golf courses have always been regular par ones, tree-lined – Harbour Town, Augusta, Brookline, that style of golf,” he said Monday at the Old Course.
Fitzpatrick, of course, prevailed last month at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, to win the U.S. Open.
Now, he’ll compete for the first time in a major as a major champion. He played in last week’s Scottish Open, tying for sixth. Though he said he struggled in the shifting winds at Renaissance, he added that relishes the tougher conditions. Seven under par won the Scottish. Six under par won the U.S. Open.
That’s the kind of golf the Englishman prefers.
“I enjoy the challenge of it when it's windy and it's hard and you've got to grind," he said. "But if it's still and calm, I don't particularly enjoy playing that [on links courses], because I don't think it's – I mean, it's still hard, but I feel like … when it's really hard, it's harder for everyone else. That's kind of why I enjoy the challenge more, I guess.”
Fitzpatrick said he likes the Old Course but, " I wouldn't say it's one of my favorite golf courses." What he appreciates about it, is its history. Having the experience of playing an Open Championship in St. Andrews is incomparable, he said.
What he might not like, though, is how low he’ll likely have to go to win his second consecutive major championship. The average winning score for the last four Opens at the Old Course is 16 under.
“I was taken aback by how low the scores were, like I didn't think it would be that low,” said Fitzpatrick. “I think with it being firm and par-4s more gettable, it could be a low one as well, weather permitting.”
Billy Foster, Fitzpatrick’s caddie, told his boss it might take 18 under to triumph. For Fitzpatrick to do so, it will require some form that he’s not yet shown in this championship. In six prior Open starts, he has one top-25 finish.
“I feel like coming back here, it's taken time just to get used to it and where to land it, how to fly it. We're not put under that test as regularly out in regular events because either there's no wind or it's softer and you can just fly it to a certain spot,” he said.
“Obviously, I'd like to improve on my record, and I feel like I've obviously been playing much, much better since the last Open that I played. It's just trying to do more of the same this year, and like I say, just fix a couple things from last week and hopefully take into this week."