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Stats Report
  • Best Of

    Matt Fitzpatrick’s steady improvement unleashed his potential

  • Best Of

    Matt Fitzpatrick's cross-handed chipping technique

When it’s said that the world’s best players are teeing it up at The Renaissance Club for this week’s Genesis Scottish Open, it’s not hyperbole.

Fourteen of the top-15 on the Official World Golf Ranking are in the field in Scotland, a brilliant confluence of talent. The last time that 14 of the top-15 in the OWGR competed in any event worldwide that was not THE PLAYERS, a FedExCup Playoffs event, a World Golf Championship or a major was the 2007 Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club. To find the last time a tournament had the entire top-15 in the World Ranking and wasn’t one of those distinctly special events was nearly three decades ago – the 1995 Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard.

Among those top players is reigning U.S. Open champion, world No. 10 and FedExCup No. 11 Matt Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick’s ascent to the top of the sport can’t honestly be called unexpected; his brilliant amateur career and stout list of achievements on the DP World Tour at a young age belied his immense talents. But Fitzpatrick’s evolution from challenger to champion is a testament to hard work, a gradual expansion of a game no longer subject to power limitations.

Fitzpatrick has long been known as a meticulous keeper of his own statistics, using the power of numbers to fuel his growth as a player. A dive into his data shows that statement is not merely an anecdote.

Powering Up

In 2014 – the year after he won the U.S. Amateur at Brookline – Fitzpatrick’s club head speed was officially measured at 112.02 mph in PGA TOUR competition. That was just below the TOUR average that season of 113.02 mph. Fitzpatrick’s consistent increases year-over-year in this measurement show a dedication to adding power to his repertoire. In 2020, Fitzpatrick ranked 122nd on the PGA TOUR in average club head speed. He’s up to 70th this season, about two full mph faster than the TOUR average.

Swinging faster clearly hasn’t just been the singular goal, though. Fitzpatrick has maintained a driving accuracy rate of 65% or higher throughout his power transformation, turning him into a statistically elite driver of the golf ball. This season, he’s ranked eighth on the PGA TOUR in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, a 51-spot improvement over just two seasons ago.

Matt Fitzpatrick - Ranks Off the Tee
  SG: Off-the-Tee Club Head Speed
2019-20 59th 122nd
2020-21 15th 108th
2021-22 8th 70th

His power isn’t just revealing itself when pulling driver. One of the most marked improvements in Fitzpatrick’s game over the last several seasons is how much closer he has been able to get to the hole when hitting approach shots from the rough.

Two seasons ago, Fitzpatrick averaged 47 feet, 2 inches on approach shots from the rough, good for 169th on TOUR that season – and about 3 feet further away than the TOUR average. In 2021-22, Fitzpatrick is getting the ball nearly 6 feet closer on approach attempts from the tall grass and now holds the No. 10 rank on TOUR. The biggest difference has come, though, when comparing the difference in his averages compared to the TOUR mean: from a 3 foot, 1 inch deficit to a 4 foot, 11 inch advantage.

Matt Fitzpatrick - Proximity from the Rough
  Average Differential from TOUR average
2019-20 47'2" 3'1"
2020-21 46'6" 11"
2021-22 41'5" -4'11"

Elite Ball Striking

This has all added up to a complete transformation in Fitzpatrick’s profile as a player. Since the beginning of his professional career, Fitzpatrick has been elite on the greens – since 2017, he has averaged 0.47 Strokes Gained: Putting per round, the sixth-best average on TOUR in that span. But his tee-to-green analytics have now caught up to his elite putting numbers.

Strokes Gained: Ball Striking adds together the strokes a player gains off-the-tee with the strokes he gains on approach shots. This season, Fitzpatrick ranks sixth on TOUR in that statistic, gaining a whopping 1.31 shots per round. Just two seasons ago, he was gaining 0.30 per round.

Matt Fitzpatrick - Strokes Gained Ball Striking Per Round
    PGA TOUR Rank
2019-20 0.30 69th
2020-21 0.57 42nd
2021-22 1.31 6th

For Fitzpatrick, this long road of hard work culminated with the biggest week of his golf career at the U.S. Open. Fitzpatrick dialed up an array of shots that Sunday afternoon in Massachusetts that immortalized him as a player, becoming just the second man in history to win the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open at the same course. Jack Nicklaus at Pebble Beach Golf Links is the other.

In the final round, Fitzpatrick hit 17 greens in regulation, becoming just the third major champion in the last 30 years to hit 17 or more GIR in the final round of their victory. The other two to do it in that time span are Nick Faldo at the 1996 Masters and Brooks Koepka at the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills.

There’s no reason to believe Fitzpatrick’s big summer has wound down just yet. Last year at The Renaissance Club, he lost in a playoff against Min Woo Lee and Thomas Detry. And while his increased strength has led to career-best ball striking numbers, Fitzpatrick has excellent balance throughout his bag; he is one of the few players this season who has improved his ranking in every strokes-gained discipline measured by the PGA TOUR.

The numbers regarding Fitzpatrick’s future are promising. But I guarantee he already knew that.