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US Open winner Matt Fitzpatrick looks to future after winning first major title

Matt Fitzpatrick first cracked the world’s top 50 in November 2015 and for all bar one week ever since he has sat comfortably in the elite strata of men’s professional golf.

But the 27-year-old from Sheffield does not do comfortable. He pushes and pushes and pushes some more to get every ounce from a comparatively slight frame and increasingly substantial golf game.

Now he is top-10. Now he has won in the United States. Now he is a major champion, thanks to a brilliant victory at what will be remembered as one of the great US Opens.

“He wasn’t happy hanging around 25 to 18 in the world for two or three years,” Fitzpatrick’s father Russell told BBC Sport in the wake of his son’s Brookline triumph.

It came to a head after the majors of 2020. He had arrived at Harding Park for that year’s US PGA Championship and texted friends to say he stood no chance before he had even struck a ball.

Quite simply, the player was sick of turning up at venues where he knew he could not win.

Fitzpatrick doubled down with long time coach Mike Walker, who is based in South Yorkshire and works alongside the legendary teacher Pete Cowen who initially uncovered the player’s talents.

Cowen was a client of Fitzpatrick’s bank manager dad. “You need a bit of luck. I could have been working in Portsmouth and never met Pete,” Russell said.

His son sat down with Walker to figure out how to gain the extra yards that would make all the difference.

They enlisted the help of bio-mechanist Sasho Mackenzie who gave the player a speed stick called “The Stack” and a regimen to transform his game.

Fitzpatrick revealed: “I’ve been doing that religiously, week in week out. It’s like going to the gym basically.”

And it is no surprise that he was so diligent in building the strength and speed that ultimately made him US Open champion at the same Massachusetts venue where he won the 2013 US Amateur as a skinny teenager.

“In terms of discipline, he’s just so organised,” his father added. “He leaves nothing to chance.”

Caddy Billy Foster, for whom this was a first major success after 40 years as a leading bagman, has a more blunt way of describing his boss’s dedication.

“When I first started working for him I said he’s Bernhard Langer’s lovechild,” Foster told me. The meticulous German is a two-time Masters winner, Ryder Cup legend and is still winning senior titles at the age of 64.

“There’s nobody works harder than Matt,” Foster continued. “He has an incredible work ethic and with that extra bit of confidence from winning a major championship it’ll hold him in good stead moving forward.”

Foster was on the receiving end of some bitter major defeats while working for Thomas Bjorn, Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke. Fitzpatrick erased much of that heartache with his stunning display of him at The Country Club.

He beat world number one Scottie Scheffler and left the likes of defending champion Jon Rahm and a battling Rory McIlroy in his wake as well as edging big time specialist Will Zalatoris into a third runner-up finish at a major.

“He hit 17 out of 18 greens in a major championship at a US Open,” Foster said. “That’s incredible golf.

“He’s put on 20 yards off the tee. His scrambling and chipping has got a lot better and he normally putts great. He hasn’t putted really well the last few weeks which is not like him at all.

“He’s going to go from strength to strength and be a real dominant player in the game.”

Fitzpatrick is quietly understated but he, perhaps more than anyone else, knows his potential. Amid the hubbub of a frenzied median scramble around Brookline’s 18th green he took a moment to reflect on what he achieved.

“I’ve got confidence in myself,” he told BBC Sport. “I back myself. I really feel like I can compete out here.

“I feel like I’m better than what I’ve already achieved, I really do. I think for me this is such a special thing for the work that I’ve put in over the last few years to pay off into this. ”

Now the ranked the world’s 10th best player, this was his eighth top-10 finish on the PGA Tour this year. His biggest struggle is trying to articulate what this victory means to him.

“I can’t tell you, I honestly can’t tell you,” he smiled. “There’s not many, in my opinion, that work harder than me.

“I just try and find 1% everywhere wherever I can. Whether it is sleep, whether it is shot selection, course strategy, whatever it is.

“I’m just trying to find something that makes me a better player. I complained at the start of the year these other guys are top-10 every week – what is it that I’m missing?

“And I’ve done exactly that this year. So I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing.

“I don’t want to get complacent now. It is very easy to win this and just kind of disappear a little bit for a while. I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing.”

It would be irresponsible to make rash and grandiose predictions for the first British winner of a men’s major since his fellow South Yorkshireman Danny Willett at the 2016 Masters.

But Fitzpatrick’s mantra will surely serve him well. As he says: “Don’t get lazy and keep working hard and hopefully some more will follow.”

Listen to a special program on Fitzpatrick’s US Open victory on BBC Radio 5 Live on Monday, 20 June from 21:30 BST.

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