Best Career Major Start Puts Matt Fitzpatrick in Contention at 2022 PGA Championship
As it happens so frequently at major championships, a steady round is often good enough for some movement up the leaderboard.
Matt Fitzpatrick’s 1-under 69 Friday helped him to stay firmly inside the top-10 at Southern Hills Country Club as he’s looking for his first PGA Championship victory.
Fitzpatrick, ranked 17th in the world, rolled in an 18-footer for birdie on the par-3 11th and then rattled off 10 straight pars on a blustery Friday in Tulsa.
He bogeyed the par-4 4th but added another circle to his scorecard on the par-4 7th.
At 3-under for the championship, Fitzpatrick was just three shots back of early leader Justin Thomas, who shot a 3-under 67 on Friday. He was tied for fifth as the afternoon wave got underway.
This is the first time that Fitzpatrick has started a major championship with back-to-back rounds under par.
The Englishman’s best result at the PGA Championship came last year when he finished T23 at Kiawah Island. He has never won on the PGA Tour but has seven wins worldwide on the DP World Tour.
Fitzpatrick has been a steady presence at major championships since 2019. That year he found the weekend in all four and tied his career-best result at a major — a T12 at the U.S. Open (matching his finish from the year prior). He missed the cut at the PGA Championship and U.S. Open in 2020, but since then he’s made the cut at seven straight majors.
He came into the week off a T14 at the Masters.
“I feel like this is the best I’ve played ever in my career this year so far,” said Fitzpatrick.
The multi-time Ryder Cup member for Team Europe preached patience as one of the keys to his success through the early part of the championship this week. He said the thing he’s learned more and more over the last few years is that the birdies will come eventually.
“It’s very rare that anyone hits 18 greens in regulation, but if you do, you’d like to think you’re going to hole one or two, three or four, and now that’s four birdies — easy as that,” said Fitzpatrick. “I think that’s been the big thing for me this year as well — I’m hitting my irons better, and just giving myself more chances. Not necessarily hitting it any closer, but just having more opportunities.”
Fitzpatrick said adding length off the tee has been something he’s really concentrated on doing with his off-week efforts. He’s guessing at Southern Hills he’s hitting around 180 miles per hour for ball speed and said two years ago he would be “absolutely swinging out of” his shoes to get to 170. That’s made a huge difference, he said, to his mental state — being able to play some longer par fours with just an 8- or 9-iron into the green.
“It’s been a big positive in the last six, eight months,” he said.
Fitzpatrick said he’s managed to do “everything” well at times so far this week at the PGA Championship, and he’s eager to keep up the solid play through the weekend. With a smile he admitted at the beginning of the week that Southern Hills just “not really” his “cup of tea.”
The opinion has likely changed so far, though.
“I think I’m really happy with the way I played the first two days,” said Fitzpatrick. “Really, really happy. Just got to build on it tomorrow, and yeah, looking forward to it.”