MATT FITZPATRICK is on the verge of joining Jack Nicklaus in the golf record books after another breathless, brilliant day at Brookline.
Joint leader Fitzpatrick has a great opportunity to become only the second man after Nicklaus to win the US amateur title AND the US Open at the same venue.
The Golden Bear won his second US amateur title at Pebble Beach in 1961 and then the major title at the same course 11 years later.
Fitzpatrick became the first Englishman to take home the US amateur title in 102 years, when he won that title in 2013 at Brookline as a baby-faced 18-year-old, with his younger brother Alex serving as caddy.
The Sheffield golfer said he had circled this return to one of his favorite courses on his calendar for years – and it’s easy to see why.
Fitzpatrick and the other man with four under par – Major specialist Will Zatoris – appeared to be the only players able to keep their heads as everyone around them lost their heads in the third round of the US Open.
Even defending champion Jon Rahm got a nosebleed after reaching the top of the leaderboard.
He cleared the last shot, only to leave his second shot in a fairway bunker en route to a double bogey that dropped him to third place with a three-under.
Zulatoris threw down the gauntlet with a brilliant third-round 67 to set the clubhouse goal at four under par.
Fitzpatrick was the first man to hit it with two under par 68s, putting him to the same mark before Rahm made three hopeless birdies in quick succession before that final hole disaster.
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World No. 2 will start as a marginal favorite to become only the third man to successfully defend the US Open title, though world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy despite ragged third rounds are not out of the running.
McIlroy seemed to put himself out of the tournament with three early bogeys.
But eight single putts within nine holes meant he saved a 73, and one under puts him just four strokes from the lead.
But Fitzpatrick is clearly very confident. He said: “I would be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about what it would mean to win here for a long time.
“It would mean the world because this place is very special to me for obvious reasons. Winning the US Amateur has been one of the biggest wins of my career so far, but of course winning the US Open would top that.
“I’m staying with the same family I stayed with in 2013 and I have some friends and family here who are helping me keep calm so hopefully I’ll be able to finish it.”
It looked like 27-year-old Fitzpatrick would go into the finals as the absolute leader as he overcame 20-mph winds and rock-hard greens with a searing burst of three birdies in four holes from the 14th.
That gave him a one-shot lead at five under. But a bogey on the notoriously difficult 18th meant he narrowly missed playing his way into the bottom group for the second straight Major on Sunday.
He was in that position at last month’s USPGA championship, only to shoot a three over par 73 that dropped him from second to fifth place.
Fitzpatrick will know a lot more about the pressures of completing a major after this experience.
This is how Zlatoris becomes. He lost to Justin Thomas in a USPGA playoff last month and finished in the top eight in just three of his eight major starts.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/5592894/us-open-golf-matt-fitzpatrick-jack-nicklaus-rory-mcilroy/ Matt Fitzpatrick is close to joining Jack Nicklaus in the record books after a brilliant day at the US Open