ERIN, WISCONSIN | There was a British comedian of great reputation but no great height who sang about “how life wasn’t much fun when you’re only 5-foot-1.” He couldn’t climb walls, standing on tiptoe to look over someone’s shoulders was out of the question, and people, particularly tall people, looked down on him, literally and metaphorically.
No one looks down on Matt Fitzpatrick, the 22-year-old English golfer of considerable promise, who represented Europe in last year’s Ryder Cup. He is 5 feet 10, which is three inches taller than Brian Harman, but six inches less than Stewart Cink. The relevance of this is that Fitzpatrick doesn’t have the levers to generate the power of some of his peers and as a result is unlikely to be a contender in a long-driving contest. On some courses, such as Erin Hills, which has been playing only a couple of hundred yards short of 8,000 yards, Fitzpatrick is at a considerable disadvantage.
All this is by way of commending the Yorkshireman for being 3-under par after 54 holes at long, long, long Erin Hills. “I played with Scottie Scheffler (an amateur from Texas) today and he is a 20-year-old kid who probably hits it 20 yards past me on the range, but out there you have slopes you can catch and add another 30 yards to that. I counted it on one of the holes. He was 54 yards past me. That’s effectively five clubs’ difference.”
Over three rounds, Scheffler’s drives averaged 302 yards, Fitzpatrick’s 282.
Fitzpatrick has got to 36th in the world ranking by combining pin-sharp iron play and a magical short game with a cool head and an acute intelligence that might be inherited from his father, a bank manager.
This US Open is only his ninth major championship.
“I do like the big occasions because normally the courses are set up very difficult and I like that,” he said. “I’d rather the winning score was 17 over than ten million under as it is some weeks. I am pretty pleased with my week so far.”