This might be a first, Matthew Fitzpatrick figures.
“I don't think I've ever been a favorite for a tournament before,” he said Tuesday at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship.
Such is the case this week as Fitzpatrick, No. 26, Patrick Reed, No. 24, and Christiaan Bezuidenhout, No. 43, are the only players competing who are inside the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Fitzpatrick is listed at +1100, making him a clear favorite over Bezuidenhout (+1700). Reed is +2000.
The reason for the betting optimism on Fitzpatrick relates to his victory two weeks ago at the Andalucia Masters. The triumph – his seventh on the European Tour – came after a disappointing Ryder Cup, in which Europe lost by a record margin (19-9) and Fitzpatrick went winless (0-3).
There were, however, some positives that came from Whistling Straits.
“I felt like I played well at [the] Ryder Cup, my game was kind of trending in a nice direction, but at the same time the one big thing I took away from that week was I really, I just really enjoyed it,” Fitzpatrick said. “I was very – I felt very calm the whole week. I never had any expectations. I didn't lose my head ever; I was very patient.”
He carried over that calmness to Valderrama and won in his first post-Ryder Cup start. He’s hoping for another first this week: his maiden PGA Tour win.
Fitzpatrick had a pair of top-5s last season, but didn’t advance past the first FedExCup playoff event. In addition to being 127th in driving distance (293.5 yards), he was 147th in greens hit in regulation. He was also 174th in final-round scoring average.
“You know, it's a mix of things. It's not hitting it close enough when I need to and not making – yeah, just hitting some average shots at the wrong time really,” he said. “I think for me it's just about trying to have consistency throughout the whole four aspects of my game. This year it's been driving and putting, but my approach play's been off, so hopefully get that to a better level and keep going with that and it will lead to a first win over here.”
Fitzpatrick said he chose to make his Tour season debut this week because he enjoys playing in wind and the course should suit his style. Brian Gay won last year’s tournament at age 48. He was T-69 in the field in distance (286.8 yards), but was T-4 in driving accuracy. That’s a stat where Fitzpatrick has excelled as he was T-17 on Tour last year.
A little precision and a measure of patience could lead to a Tour breakthrough.
“Again, the more pressure I put on myself that I've got to win … I know full well from past experiences it's just not going to help,” Fitzpatrick said.
“Like I said, I'm 1-for-1 post Ryder Cup, so just going to try to keep it rolling.”