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Matt Fitzpatrick has credited his biomechanics coach Sasho Mackenzie for his transformation into one of the longest drivers on tour after the 27-year-old Englishman won the US Open to clinch his first major title.
Prior to this season Fitzpatrick had been regarded as a relatively short hitter who relied on his short game and putting to make up lost ground on the muscle men of the PGA Tour. But having been outside the top 100 players last year with an average driving distance of 297 yards, Fitzpatrick is now one of the biggest hitters around and averaged 309 yards this week as he handled the challenging Massachusetts course better than anyone, beating Will Zalatoris and Scottie Scheffler by one stroke to seal victory.
Fitzpatrick finished the week 16th for driving distance, fifth for driving accuracy and first for greens hit in regulation, finding 17 of the 18 in his final round. Afterwards he revealed he had been on a programme of speed training using weighted swing sticks to increase his ball speed from 169mph to 174mph, adding significant zip to his tee shots.
“I’ve spent a lot of time working with [coach] Mike Walker and my coach and biomechanist Sasho Mackenzie. Sasha gave me this speed stick called The Stack. I’ve been doing that religiously week in and week out. It’s like going to the gym basically. It’s like a training program and it’s worked wonders.
“If I was in this position, four years ago, and I was playing with Will in the final group, I’d be concerned that I’m going to be 15, 20 [yards] behind him [off the tee]. And I felt comfortable all day that I was going to be past him, which to me gives me confidence obviously going into the next shot knowing that you’ve got less club. There’s a bit of a mentality thing, that when you’re hitting it past people, it’s quite nice.”
It was an iron shot which will be most remembered, however, after Fitzpatrick elected not to use his driver on the final hole of the tournament, instead hitting an errant three-wood which found a fairway bunker down the left-hand side. It left him with a tricky shot into the green but he produced arguably the shot of his life to fade an eight-iron in close to the front pin, from where he made his major-clinching par.
“One thing that I’ve been really struggling with this year is fairway bunker play,” Fitzpatrick said. “One good thing is the way the lie was, it forced me not to go towards the pin.
“But I just feel like I’m a fast player, and when I look back, it just all happened so fast. It was like just kind of natural ability took over and I just played the shot that was at hand, as if I was a junior trying to hit it close. I didn’t mean to do that, but I just committed to the shot we kind of planned and came out of it with a squeezy fade. Yeah, it was amazing. It’s one of the best shots I ever hit, there’s no doubt about it.”
Fitzpatrick has now set his sights on matching Nick Faldo’s six major titles, a European record, starting at The Open at St Andrews next month. “Six majors is the number,” he said. “I love playing St Andrews. It’s a great golf course. It’s going to be interesting, obviously, with the length and everything. Now I’m a bomber, I’ll probably be driving most of the greens.”