It’s been eight months or so since Matthew Fitzpatrick made major headlines as the low amateur at the Open Championship at Muirfield. So the 19-year-old amateur, making his second PGA Tour start this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, didn’t really expect anyone to remember him.
He was wrong.
“It’s been quite surreal this week, people who i played with in the Open, I don’t mean to be rude to them, I almost expected them to forget who i was, and they were saying hi,” Fitzpatrick said.
Even those who he had yet to meet recognized the teen from Sheffield, England.
“This morning, literally, I got down the stairs at the range and Justin Rose was coming, and for some reason, I’ve never met him before, and I just decided to say, ‘Hey Justin’ and he said, ‘Hi, Matt,’ ” Fitzpatrick recalled.
Fitzpatrick, who also won last year’s U.S. Amateur, shot 1-under 71 Thursday at Bay Hill. He made three birdies and nearly had a fourth before missing a short birdie putt at the par-4 18th hole.
“I felt quite composed, I didn’t get down or get too upbeat,” the amateur said of his first pro round on American soil, and the first of many this year in the U.S.
In January, Fitzpatrick withdrew from Northwestern University to pursue a full-time amateur golf career. Fitzpatrick has exemptions into three of the four major championships this season – the Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship – as well as the RBC Heritage in April and AT&T National in June.
Prior to Bay Hill, Fitzpatrick spent a few weeks in Arizona in order to practice in warm weather. Monday, he’ll make the trip to Augusta National for some practice – he’s planning on 36 holes each on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday of next week.
“I’ve been full-time golf since January,” said Fitzpatrick, who plans to stay amateur at least through the Open Championship.
His short-term goals include making the cut at Bay Hill this week while also sizing himself up against the pros.
“Just seeing where I am in comparison to these guys really,” he said, “seeing whether I can compete or not.”