AUGUSTA, Ga. —All the data in the world could not help Matt Fitzpatrick on this one.
The Jupiter, Florida, resident famously known for tracking every shot he hits (which, by the way, was 6,053 in tournament play 2022), could not figure out the sensation he started experiencing in late January. First coming off his shoulder and then into his chest.
It started before the Pebble Beach Pro-Am and continued into the Genesis Invitational. The pain put a halt Fitzpatrick’s work in the gym.
Finally, Fitzpatrick’s trainer suggested a visit to a Los Angeles-area hospital during Genesis week. An MRI revealed a slight bulging disk.
“I wasn’t able to continue my speed work that was being done religiously,” Fitzpatrick said Tuesday. “The timing of it put me straight behind the 8-ball. All of a sudden, the work I had done in the off-season just became non-existent.
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“I wasn’t moving as well as I needed to to swing it as well as I needed to, and it’s just been kind of compounding of errors, really.”
This came during a stretch in which Fitzpatrick missed four cuts in six starts, equaling the number of missed cuts in his previous 24 events. And following the best year of his career.
Fitzpatrick’s first PGA Tour victory was his first major win, the 2022 U.S. Open champion, which helped him reach the top 10 in the World Golf Rankings for the first time. He now is No. 15.
Among Palm Beach County golf royalty
Fitzpatrick, 28, may not be among the higher profile golfers who have made Palm Beach County home, but that does not mean his game does not fit in with the golf royalty with whom he shares a zip code.
In the last year Fitzpatrick, who won the U.S. Amateur at 18 and was on a Ryder Cup team before he turned 22, has gone from one of the UK’s best golfers to one of the best golfers in the world. While the U.S. Open is his lone win on the PGA Tour, he had eight wins on the European Tour.
But that progress was stalled by the injury and Fitzpatrick is trying to build back his swing and body to where it was last year.
“It’s very, very frustrating,” said Fitzpatrick, who plays out of the Dye Preserve in Jupiter. “It’s only been the last week or two, really, that stretch where I’ve been able to do normal stuff again and train normally.
“I think that’s been a big factor in me … like I say, underappreciating the injury and the severity that it had on my game, really.”
Fitzpatrick’s swing coach, Mike Walker, has called Fitzpatrick a “baby-faced assassin” and “ruthless.” His rise is attributed to his relentless work ethic.
At 5-foot-9, Fitzpatrick is not a naturally long driver. But through speed training he has transformed his swing, adding distance. That part of his game was impacted as much as any by the injury.
“The Players was the first time that I could swing, drive it fully, and not feel it in my backswing or follow-through,” he said. “Everything before that, Pebble was really bad, and then Phoenix was not quite as bad but not great. The same the week after, slowly improving, basically.”
But Fitzpatrick is not known for one shot … rather every shot. Since he was 15, Fitzpatrick has taken extensive notes after each shot. He not only notes the club, the distance and where the ball lands, but includes the lie, the type of grass and wind.
“The big thing that I get out of it is certain ways to play certain holes; do I need to be more aggressive, what the scoring average is to certain pins, how my dispersions kind of decide my targets when I’m hitting into the pins,” Fitzpatrick said.
“We collect a lot of stuff and I think it’s very helpful for me in kind of organizing what I need to practice for the upcoming tournament and what areas I need to concentrate on.”
So what do the analytics tell him about playing Augusta National, where Fitzpatrick’s best Masters finish was a T7 in 2016?
“Approach play and short game is key,” said Fitzpatrick, who is grouped with Collin Morikawa and Will Zalatoris for the first two rounds this week. “You’ve got to hit it into the right spots on the green, hit it close, and also when you do hit a bad shot, you have to be on the right side of the green, the right misses, not short-sided, and then your short game comes into play.
“I think those two are statistically the most important aspects of doing all well around here. If you look at the winners around here, they tend to be really, really good approach players and hit the ball well into the green that week. I think looking at those, those are the most important things.”
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