Matt Fitzpatrick, Xander Schauffele thrive in the worst half of the draw
July 08, 2022
By Sean Martin , PGATOUR.COM
Matt Fitzpatrick makes birdie on No. 4 at Genesis Scottish Open
NORTH BERWICK, Scotland – The calmest winds that Matt Fitzpatrick faced at this week’s Genesis Scottish Open came towards the end of his second round. It was as if the weather wanted to rub it in, only confirming what Fitzpatrick already knew.
“It’s safe to say we got the worse half of the draw,” he said after shooting a 66 that was Friday morning’s second-best score.
The luck of the draw is an inherent characteristic of tournaments on links courses, where a seven-day forecast inspires about as much confidence as an American driving on the left side for the first time.
The toughest conditions came Thursday afternoon, when Fitzpatrick had to get up-and-down from another green, players were hitting long-irons and fairway woods into par-4s and some struggled to reach the 16th fairway. The unlucky ones who played in the tough stuff returned Friday morning to face more wind.
Thursday’s afternoon wave averaged about three strokes higher than the half of the field that teed off earlier in the day. The difference between the two waves was 1.5 strokes Friday, leading to a scoring average that was 1.7 strokes higher for the players who were on the late-early side of the draw (145.4 to 143.7 strokes).
Genesis Scottish Open scoring averages Rd. 1 Rd. 2 Early 70.4 71.8 Late 73.6 73.3 Difference 3.2 strokes 1.5 strokes
The lowest 36-hole score from the late-early starters was 3-under 137. Four players shot that score, including two of the TOUR’s most recent winners. U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick, Travelers winner Xander Schauffele, rookie Kurt Kitayama and DP World Tour member Jordan L. Smith were all tied as the top players from the tougher conditions.
They will enter the weekend four shots behind leader Cameron Tringale, whose 72 on Friday was 11 shots higher than his opening round. He still leads by three shots, the same margin he had after the first round. Gary Woodland and Doug Ghim are tied for second at 4 under.
Schauffele started his day by making eagle on the par-5 10th. His second shot was an 8-iron from 225 yards that he hit to 15 feet. His 65 was the low round from Friday’s early starters.
Xander Schauffele rolls in eagle putt on No. 10 at Genesis Scottish Open
“It wasn't that (the wind) was constant. It was that it was kind of coming in and out and pretty strong breezes,” said Schauffele, who’s ranked eighth in the FedExCup after his recent win at the Travelers Championship. “I enjoy the challenge.”
Fitzpatrick shot 66 on Friday after bogeying his last two holes. Kitayama, a TOUR rookie who’s won twice on the DP World Tour, shot a 66 on Thursday that was the low round from the afternoon. Smith made a hole-in-one on the par-3 17th as part of his second-round 69, winning cars for both himself and his caddie, a childhood friend.
He is one of just two players from this half of the draw to shoot under par in each of the first two rounds. Rickie Fowler, who shot 69-69, is the other.
Plenty of the game’s biggest names did not fare as well.
Despite those two closing bogeys, Fitzpatrick finished eight shots ahead of playing partners Collin Morikawa and Will Zalatoris, who both shot 71-74.
Hideki Matsuyama was 7 over par for 36 holes, while PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas finished 10 over, matching the second-worst 36-hole score of his career in relation to par. It was just the second missed cut in 17 starts this season for Thomas. The world’s top players had a difficult time in the first two rounds, regardless of when they teed off.
The Genesis Scottish Open boasted 14 of the top 15 players in the world. Half of them missed the cut, including FedExCup leader Scottie Scheffler. Billy Horschel and Viktor Hovland are the other top-15 players joining Scheffler, Morikawa, Matsuyama, Zalatoris and Thomas on the road to St. Andrews. Scheffler shot 73-72 from the easier side of the draw.
“Today I actually played fine,” said Scheffler. “I got a couple really bad breaks on the front nine. Outside of that, I played fine today. Yesterday was the day where I played just absolutely horrendous. Going to next week, I feel like I'm still in a pretty good spot.”
This is Fitzpatrick’s first start since he won the U.S. Open over Scheffler and Zalatoris. Fitzpatrick welcomed getting back to work after the whirlwind weeks that followed his win in Brookline.
“It's just been busy with all sorts of stuff so I'm toward get back into regular scheduling,” said Fitzpatrick, who’s 11th in the FedExCup.
That includes late tee times on weekends, even when he faces the worst of the weather.