ORLANDO – Don’t let Matt Fitzpatrick’s looks fool you.
“He looks like he’s 12 but he plays like a grown man,” Harold Varner III said.
Even though Fitzpatrick, 22, barely needs a razor, he is well beyond his years on the golf course. The 2013 U.S. Amateur winner has already competed in six major championships, his best finish coming last year at the Masters, where he was T-7. He is ranked 30th in the world, making a big jump last fall when he won the European Tour’s finale, the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, a victory that came less than two months after Fitzpatrick competed in his first Ryder Cup.
“He’s a quiet kid and he gets his business done and he does it very efficiently and very well,” Rory McIlroy said. “Yeah, I mean look, he’s a great talent. He’s a Ryder Cup player already and has won a couple of our biggest tournaments over in Europe so far.”
The only place Fitzpatrick hasn’t succeeded? On the PGA Tour – though that’s the next order of business.
After shooting 8-under 136 through two rounds of this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, his third start at Bay Hill, Fitzpatrick has now made four of nine cuts in non-major, non-WGC PGA Tour events. His best finish is T-23.
Fitzpatrick wants to earn his PGA Tour card as soon as possible. His girlfriend, Lydia Cassada, whom he met at Northwestern, is likely to get a job in Atlanta, so it only makes sense for Fitzpatrick to get his full-time U.S. playing privileges.
“I’ll probably move over there next year to be honest because that’s where I want to be in the long run,” Fitzpatrick said.
Judging by his talent, it seems like only a matter of time before Fitzpatrick has his PGA Tour card. Maybe then more golf fans in the U.S. will stop mistaking him for a 12-year-old kid.
“I’m sure probably people think I’m the amateur out there or the 15-year-old that’s got in or something,” Fitzpatrick said. “But I don’t mind that, I think it’s quite funny. I would rather that than people think, ‘Oh, he’s going to win every week.’ I can’t really imagine the sort of pressure that Rory and Jason Day and those guys have; it’s probably tough to keep up with.”
At the 2013 British Open, Fitzpatrick’s first major – and professional – start, as an amateur, he was on the range at Muirfield with his brother, Alex, when Fitzpatrick grabbed a bucket of balls.
“I turned around to walk back to where I’m hitting and guy in all Nike stuff came up to me and said, ‘Are those for Tiger?’ Because he thought I was a ball boy,’” Fitzpatrick told Golf Channel’s Will Gray earlier this week.
That’s not the only story Fitzpatrick has of that kind. At the WGC-Cadillac Championship last year at Doral, Fitzpatrick didn’t have his player credential on him and was denied access to the locker room. Luckily, Jason Day came out and got the security guard to let Fitzpatrick in.
“And every time I see Jason Day now he always asks me about my credentials,” Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick’s playing credentials are already world-class; he just needs his breakthrough in the U.S. With Fitzpatrick sitting two shots off the lead halfway through this year’s tournament at Arnie’s Place, that breakthrough might come Sunday.