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US Open amateur Matthew Fitzpatrick has ‘great week’ at Pinehurst

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Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
18-year-old Matthew Fitzpatrick finished Sunday with a smile as he waits with his caddie Lorne Duncan to putt on the 18th green on Pinehurst No. 2. Fitzpatrick was the only amateur to make the cut at the U.S. Open.

PINEHURST Matthew Fitzpatrick looks impossibly young and plays golf impressively well.

He’s 19 and looks 16. He also was the only amateur to make the cut and play all four days in the U.S. Open, and in his final event as an amateur.

Fitzpatrick, from Sheffield, England, had a final-round 69 Sunday that sets him nicely for his professional debut this week in the Irish Open. A day after a 78, in a round that began with a bogey and two double-bogeys, he had four birdies and enjoyed his last swing around Pinehurst No. 2.

“It’s been a great week,” he said. “My aim was to win the low amateur, and to achieve it is pretty pleasing.”

For Fitzpatrick, the 2013 U.S. Amateur champion, the U.S. Open was his third major. He tied for 44th in last year’s British Open, then missed the cut at this year’s Masters.

But he made the most of U.S. Open week. He put in a practice round with Rory McIlroy. He then played the first two days with Phil Mickelson and defending champion Justin Rose and looked comfortable with those two.

“He seems to perform better on the bigger stage,” said Russell Fitzpatrick, Matthew’s father. “I don’t know why that is. He plays at home and while he’s obviously a very good player he doesn’t set the course record week in or week out by any means. I just think he just seems to like people watching him for whatever reason.”

There were thousands watching the first two days at No. 2, when Fitzpatrick had rounds 71 and 73. He was paired Sunday with former British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, who had a 67.

“The course was a lot easier today,” said Oosthuizen, who casually chatted with Fitzpatrick during the round.

Asked if Oosthuizen offered him any professional advice, Matthew Fitzpatrick smiled and said, “Just keep trying and keep working hard at it and just sort of take every round as it comes, really.”

Fitzpatrick was the first British golfer to win the U.S. Amateur since 1911, beating Oliver Goss of Australia in the finals at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. He enrolled at Northwestern as the top-ranked amateur in the world, only to leave school in January to concentrate fully on golf.

At 5-foot-10 and 145 pounds, Fitzpatrick doesn’t smash 330-yard drives or overpower courses. But he knows how to manage his game and usually relies on a sharp short game, although he wasn’t too happy about his putting in the Open.

“I thought this was a particularly hard golf course and this heat is not something he’s particularly used to,” Russell Fitzpatrick said. “He’s not the longest hitter and this was 7,600 yards. This was the toughest of the three (majors) he’s played in, although he’s slightly more experienced than when he played in the British Open.”

Matthew Fitzpatrick should have a busy pro schedule. He’ll play in Europe, saying he’ll take advantage of seven sponsor’s exemptions, in hopes of securing a European Tour card.

There have been times when Fitzpatrick has been asked for an ID to enter the players’ locker room. He said he has noticed that other golfers carry themselves differently and look the part – no ID needed for them.

But he’s getting there. And pro golf can age a guy quickly.

Alexander: 919-829-8945; Twitter: @ice_chip
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