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Saturday, August 17, 2013
Matt Fitzpatrick seeks an A in final

By Farrell Evans
ESPN.com

BROOKLINE, Mass. -- For the past four years, Russell Fitzpatrick has failed to win the Masters ticket lottery, but now he can finally take his family to Augusta after his son, Matt, won 2 and 1 over Corey Conners to advance to the finals of the U.S. Amateur at The Country Club.

Matt Fitzpatrick
No golfer from England has won the U.S. Amateur since 1911. Matt Fitzpatrick hopes to change that bit of history Sunday at The Country Club at Brookline.

No matter what happens Sunday in the 36-hole final against Oliver Goss, the 18-year-old Sheffield, England, native has earned invitations to the 2014 Masters and U.S. Open.

The low amateur at the Open Championship in July, Matt Fitzpatrick now has a chance to be the first Englishman to win the U.S. Amateur since Harold Hilton did it in 1911 at the Apawamis Country Club in Rye, N.Y.

From the sixth hole on Saturday, where he cut Conners' lead to 1-up in the match with a 30-foot birdie putt, Fitzpatrick put on a dazzling short game performance that was highlighted by a chip-in at the eighth hole from off the green. He would cap off his amazing display with an 18-foot birdie putt at the 17th hole to close out the match.

"My short game was probably the best of my life today," Fitzpatrick said. "Sort of every chip and putt that I looked at was close."

Fitzpatrick attributes his prowess on Saturday in the short game area to having his 14-year-old brother, Alex, as his caddie.

"[Alex] is a short game wizard," Matt Fitzpatrick said. "He could get up and down out of a dustbin. It's actually frightening the stuff I've seen him do."

But Alex Fitzpatrick, a 2-handicapper who was recently selected to play in England's 16-and-unders, almost ruined his brother's chances of succeeding on Saturday morning. On the second hole, Matt Fitzpatrick needed his 58-degree wedge, but quickly learned that his little brother had left it near the first green.

"There was no doubt about it, I was angry," Matt Fitzpatrick said. "Maybe I said something that I probably shouldn't to him, but it's all right, by the next hole we were absolutely fine, and it was a good job that I got up and down because otherwise maybe I would have been a bit more angry."

Earning a place in the U.S. Amateur finals and invitations to the first two major championships of 2014 offers a measure of solace for the disappointing news on Tuesday that he had made a B and two C's on his A level exams, the rigorous subject tests that high school students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland endure for entry into a university. The past several months, Matt Fitzpatrick has struggled to balance his playing schedule with the demands of his studies.

"I didn't get very good results, which was very disappointing, but certainly after today it doesn't matter -- it does matter to me, and I guess it will for quite a while -- but this is a nice swap," Matt Fitzpatrick said. "I'd rather have bad results and be where am, if I'm honest."

Headed to Northwestern University this fall to begin his freshman year, Fitzpatrick exudes a calm on the golf course that likely set him apart from most of the 312 players who began the stroke-play portion of this championship on Monday. Nothing seems to rattle him.

"Any time [Matt] was in a difficult place where he had little chance of getting it close, he hit an unbelievable little flop shot or pitch shot," Conners said. "So when your opponent does that ... it kind of deflates the tires a little bit."

Standing in Matt Fitzpatrick's way of making history for England is Goss, who beat fellow Australian Brady Watt 2-up in the other semifinal match. Fitzpatrick has played in two previous 36-hole finals, the British Boys, which he won last year, and the English Amateur, where he lost in the finals a few weeks ago.

Yet he is holding steadfast to the mantra that he has clung to all week of trying to keep things in the proper perspective.

"It's a nice position to be in," he said. "But again, it's not the end of the world if it doesn't come off [in the finals].

"There are worse things, so I'm just giving it my best, and if I don't play well enough on the day, then that's that, really."

All Fitzpatrick aspired to at the beginning of the week was to make it into the match play. Now, no matter what happens Sunday, he can provide those elusive Masters tickets for his family.

One more magical day around the greens and he can hold the Havemeyer Trophy in the palm of his hands.