New York Post

MATT'S INCREDIBLE Fitzpatric­k survives final-round duel with Zalatoris for his first major title

- By MARK CANNIZZARO mcannizzar­

BROOKLINE, Mass. — They were both looking to change their lives on Sunday.

Neither Matthew Fitzpatric­k nor Will Zalatoris had won a PGA Tour event, let alone a major championsh­ip.

Fitzpatric­k, though, fancied himself as the player who had the edge this week — not just over Zalatoris, with whom he was paired in the final group of the 122nd U.S. Open at The Country Club and dueled right to the scintillat­ing 72nd and final hole of the tournament, but over everyone.

As a teenager in 2013, Fitzpatric­k won the U.S. Amateur on these very historic grounds, and he hadn’t been shy about telling anyone this week that he felt that might be the difference for him.

In the end, maybe it was. Maybe it was the slightest of edges he had over Zalatoris, whom he narrowly defeated to capture the U.S. Open, his first profession­al win on American soil.

Fitzpatric­k shot a final-round 68 to finish 6-under for the tournament, one shot clear of Zalatoris, who lost last month’s PGA Championsh­ip to Justin Thomas in a playoff at Southern Hills, and Masters champion Scottie Scheffler.

“I have no words,’’ the 27-year Fitzpatric­k said. “The feeling’s out of this world. It is so cliché, but it’s stuff you dream of as a kid. Yeah, to achieve it, I can retire a happy man tomorrow. Because of my success here before, I just really believed this was the time.’’

You won’t see many better duels than the one that took place down the stretch between Fitzpatric­k and Zalatoris.

So often in U.S. Opens, in majors, the biggest, most important tournament­s are lost, not won. This tournament was won. Fitzpatric­k won. Zalatoris didn’t lose. Zalatoris shot a final-round 69 and just missed a 15-foot birdie putt on 18 to force a playoff.

Fitzpatric­k simply hung around all week, fluctuatin­g up and down the leaderboar­d but never falling from contention. It’s what you have to do in a U.S. Open if you want to win. It’s a war of attrition.

The climactic moment of the final round came on the 72nd hole, where Fitzpatric­k hit the shot of his life.

Zalatoris, trailing by one shot, pumped his drive to the middle of the fairway.

Fitzpatric­k, opting for 3-wood and a safer approach to protect the lead, hit his tee shot into a bunker to the left the fairway. It looked dodgy at best that he was going to be able to lift his approach shot over the lip of the bunker 159 yards to the flag.

But he did, flushed a 9-iron that he’ll remember for the rest of his life, and it was sensationa­l.

“That was one of the best shots I’ve hit of all time.’’ Fitzpatric­k said. “When I saw it leave the sand and felt the strike, I couldn’t have been happier.’’

Zalatoris had a look at Fitzpatric­k’s lie in the bunker and liked his chances to force a playoff.

“Matt’s shot on 18 is going to be shown probably for the rest of U.S. Open history,’’ Zalatoris said. “I walked by it and I thought that going for it was going to be ballsy, but the fact that he pulled it off and even had a birdie look was just incredible. So, hats off to him.’’

Fitzpatric­k’s approach on 18 came to rest about 20 feet above the hole. Zalatoris’ wedge landed about 5 feet inside of Fitzpatric­k’s ball, meaning he’d get a read on the putt. Fitzpatric­k’s birdie try slid past the hole just to the left side and he tapped in for par. Zalatoris’ did the same, sending him into a crouch, agonizing the result.

“With about 6 feet to go, I thought I had it,’’ Zalatoris said.

“I’ve got no regrets. I thought I played great all week. It stings obviously. I’m three shots away from practicall­y being a … having a chance of being a three-time major champion. A bounce here or there.’’

Zalatoris has now played in seven major championsh­ips and has finished eighth or better in six of them. He has a runner-up and a sixth at the Masters, a runner-up and a tie for eighth at the PGA and a runner-up and a tie for sixth at the U.S. Open.

It’s only a matter of time before Zalatoris is going to win his first tournament.

That time looked like it might be Sunday when he seized the lead on the 11th hole with a birdie. But it was not to be, because Fitzpatric­k, playing in his happy place, was a tick better.

After Saturday’s third round, with Fitzpatric­k and Zalatoris tied for the lead at 4-under par, Fitzpatric­k said he felt like he had the advantage over everyone else because of what he did in 2013.

So, on Sunday, he went out and made it 2013 all over again.

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 ?? USA TODAY Sports (3) ?? OH SO CLOSE: Will Zalatoris can’t believe it as his birdie attempt to force a playoff slides past the cup, setting off a celebratio­n for Matt Fitzpatric­k and his caddie, Billy Foster.
USA TODAY Sports (3) OH SO CLOSE: Will Zalatoris can’t believe it as his birdie attempt to force a playoff slides past the cup, setting off a celebratio­n for Matt Fitzpatric­k and his caddie, Billy Foster.
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