Matthew Fitzpatrick’s British Masters victory fittingly caps a season of extraordinary progress that has been in keeping with his short but glittering amateur career.
Having won his European Tour playing rights at Qualifying School last autumn, Fitzpatrick began the year ranked outside the world’s top 400 players.
his British Masters victory,
the 21-year-old is knocking loudly on the door that leads to the biggest events. He is just nine places short of the top-50 ranking that would make him eligible for the majors and World Golf Championships tournaments.
This rapid rise speaks volumes for the Sheffield youngster, especially when you consider he only claimed the 11th qualifying card at tour school. This provided a limited number of European Tour starts.
So Fitzpatrick was under immediate pressure to make the most of the opportunities he had earned and the
2013 US amateur champion
has wasted little time in establishing himself on the circuit.
Before completing his two-stroke victory over a strong field at Woburn over the weekend, Fitzpatrick had enjoyed five top-five finishes this year.
runner-up to Danny Willett
at the European Masters in July and, in the build-up to his maiden win, he finished third at the Italian Open and Czech Masters.
His decision to drop out of Northwestern University and turn professional in June 2014 has been fully vindicated.
Joining the paid ranks cost him a place at that year’s Open, though he did play the Masters and US Open after winning the US Amateur Championship. At the time, many an eyebrow was raised when this relatively slight figure decided to try to mix it with the big boys.
While his composure and on-course maturity were never in doubt, there was an assumption Fitzpatrick would struggle to generate the requisite length off the tee to compete.
While he is not the biggest beast in the driving stakes, he is no slouch either and averages 287 yards in distance while hitting more than seven out of 10 fairways.
Fitzpatrick’s greatest strength, though, appears to be his ability to hit greens in regulation, for which he is ranked seventh on the European Tour.
His 75.6% success rate is all the more impressive because he has played significantly more holes than any of the other leading players in this category.
Who is Matthew Fitzpatrick?
European Tour wins: One
Best finish at a Major: 44th at the 2013 Open Championship (as an amateur)
Indeed, it is around the greens where there is most room for improvement – his putting and scrambling statistics are relatively poor.
Not that he should worry too much. These are still very early days in a career that has already netted more than £1m in prize money.
Encouragingly, Fitzpatrick has one of the brightest young coaches behind him in Mike Walker who, in turn, has the ear of Pete Cowen – perhaps the country’s wisest and most experienced teacher of golf.
It means the player is ideally equipped to build on his breakthrough victory. Fitzpatrick is one of a dozen first-time winners on the tour this year, which illustrates an ever deepening pool of talent.
Much of what is being said of Fitzpatrick at the moment could also be attached to the likes of Belgium’s Thomas Pieters, Anirban Lahiri of India and another Englishman, Andy Sullivan.
And all emerging talents should be mindful of the fragility of tour life.
Few would have predicted the awful collapse in form suffered by Matteo Manassero.
The Italian, who became the youngest winner of the BMW PGA Championship in 2013, has tumbled out of the world’s top 400.
His apparent quest to find extra length from the tee has backfired dreadfully. The 22-year-old has missed 16 cuts this year, including in his past 11 tournaments.
At times such as these, professional golf is thoroughly unforgiving and Manassero faces a huge challenge to resurrect his career.
He is a likeable and popular figure, and there are plenty in the game who would love to see him arrest this worrying decline.
It is hard not to like Fitzpatrick either. He has a modest demeanour but a game that is well worth shouting about.
If he continues his form through the European Tour’s lucrative Final Series of events, the Yorkshireman could land the top-50 ranking that forms his immediate target.
It would take him into the virtuous circle of being able to play for the biggest prizes and most valuable ranking points. It would also book his return to the Masters next year.