Matt Fitzpatrick has added two things to his game that could take him to a higher level this season. Both additions have paid dividends in the opening rounds of the $3.25 million Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
The 2013 U.S. Amateur champion is in contention in his 2019 debut after returning scores of 65 and 70 to sit at 9 under par. He was two shots behind Spain’s Alvaro Quiros when the first half of the draw finished their second rounds.
The five-time European Tour winner has made only one bogey in 36 holes around the Majlis Course, and will fancy his chances of earning win number six. He has a history of winning in Dubai, having won the 2016 DP World Tour Championship.
The 24-year-old also has a good record in Omega-sponsored tournaments. He picked up his fifth European Tour title in just five seasons last year when he successfully defended the Omega European Masters in Switzerland. He also finished second in the Honma Hong Kong Open, the opening event of the 2018-19 season. However, he wasn’t happy with his performance last year, which included missing out on a second consecutive appearance in the Ryder Cup, and decided changes were needed.
“I’m not going to lie, I was really disappointed with my season last year,” Fitzpatrick admitted. “Second in Hong Kong kind of saved it a little bit at the end of the year there, but I knew a lot of things needed to change.”
One of those changes was hiring veteran caddie Billy Foster after he split with Lee Westwood late last year. The man from Fitzpatrick’s home county of Yorkshire in the north of England is one of the most respected caddies in the business. Aside from Westwood, he spent a long time on Darren Clarke’s bag, helping the Northern Irishman win the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St George’s. Other “names” he’s looped for include Seve Ballesteros and Gordon Brand Junior.
“His sense of humour could outweigh the experience, I think,” Fitzpatrick said. “But no, he’s brilliant. He’s been through a lot, and having him on the bag, I’m a very lucky man. I know he had quite a few offers.”
Always one of the straightest hitters in the game, one-time Northwestern player Fitzpatrick has a bit more power this year.
“A couple things that sort of I’ve been doing in the off-season sort of looked to have paid off a little bit. I just added a bit of extra length to my driver, so it’s given me a few yards to help get on in two on the last (the par-5, 18th) because I’ve never been able to do that.”
Foster and more length could be the game changers that help Fitzpatrick make up for a disappointing 2018.