Matthew Fitzpatrick is set to resume his new found love affair with desert golf but has his focus firmly set on American soil.
After finishing last season on a career high with victory at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, the Englishman will tee it up alongside Tyrrell Hatton and Branden Grace in the opening two rounds of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
“It’s always a great week, Abu Dhabi, to get the season started. The weather is perfect. The golf course is perfect. Yeah just looking forward to getting going now,” Fitzpatrick said of the Desert Swing opener.
But it seems Fitzpatrick’s focus, despite the doubtless enthusiasm for his return to the UAE and commitment to the European Tour, is on achieving success in America. He was awarded a five year European Tour exemption for winning at Jumeirah Golf Estates, which clears the path to the PGA Tour.
“The exemption gives me a bit more freedom. I am going to try to get my PGA Tour card this year and just see how I can do that. Again, my target is pretty much like every year, just keep climbing the world rankings and get as high up as possible, really.”
The PGA Tour is a natural lure for such a gifted player who has an old head on a young swing. It is easy to forget that having already won three European Tour events, including the Race to Dubai finale, he is only 22 years old. It is only when asked about nine holes he played with Martin Kaymer in practice on The National that you are reminded of his tender years.
“I still look back to four or five years ago when I was watching him on TV winning the US PGA and I actually played in the same US Open he won, as well. For me, it’s still a little bit surreal that I know him, you know, Martin Kaymer, Henrik Stenson, guys like that.”
His golf, however is anything but immature. Fitzpatrick has a classic swing which he hones with two drills he revealed in his press conference Wednesday, one cack-handed and another with a split grip.
“I feel technically that I’m pretty sound. I’m not one for messing around or trying to get in a different position. I’ve been coached by Mike and Pete Cowen for years now…I’ve got my pattern and I know what I do when I hit my bad shots and I know what I do when I hit my good shots, and it’s just a case of repeating the good ones more than the bad ones.”
Fitzpatrick’s pragmatic approach to the game will come in handy as he battles for a PGA Tour card. If his form last year continues, you wouldn’t bet against him winning in Abu Dhabi en-route stateside. – by John Tully-Jackson