PGA Tour newcomer, former Northwestern student takes on the Genesis Invitational

On the green
Matthew Fitzpatrick and his caddy on the green. (Kari McMahon/Medill)

By Kari McMahon
Medill Reports

LOS ANGELES — Matthew Fitzpatrick, the 25-year-old first-year PGA Tour member, returned quickly to the putting green after his first round at the Genesis Invitational on Thursday to work on his technique after a difficult start to the tournament.

Fitzpatrick teed off from the 10th hole with Jhonattan Vegas and Sam Ryder. Fitzpatrick hit three bogeys in the first nine holes, finishing the round tied for 42nd place with an even par.

“This is the first time I played here so I didn’t have too many expectations. I knew that it was a difficult course,” Fitzpatrick said. “I didn’t get off to the best start. Just trying to grind and get it back. Fortunately, I did on the back nine.”

This is Fitzpatrick’s first year on the PGA Tour as a member, but he is not defined as a rookie because he has played more than seven official PGA Tour money events in a prior season. Fitzpatrick said his hopes for the season are to play in a final and finish as high up as possible in the FedEx Cup, a season-long competition culminating in playoffs.

“My main goal is to make the Ryder Cup team and hopefully that is just a [by-product] of playing well over here and in Europe,” Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick, who is from the United Kingdom, is currently ranked at 138 in the FedEx cup. He won the U.S. Amateur Championship in 2013 and then turned pro in 2014, joining the European PGA Tour.

In January 2019, Rory McIlroy described the European Tour as a stepping stone to play on the PGA Tour. Fitzpatrick, who now plays on both the European and U.S. PGA tours, said he wouldn’t necessarily say that’s true.

“I think it’s still just finding the balance really and making sure you play what you need to play and what you want to play,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think sometimes the European tour might get overlooked just because of the way the schedule falls.”

Fitzpatrick enrolled at Northwestern as a freshman in 2014 and played on the golf team, dropping out after one quarter to pursue golf full-time. Several of Fitzpatrick’s Northwestern friends cheered him on throughout the first round at Riviera Country Club Thursday.

Many British golfers have an association with U.S. universities. Fitzpatrick said he thinks it helps to be associated with a U.S. university in terms of getting on the PGA Tour, but emphasized it is not for everyone.

“I think if you can get the opportunity to do and play over here in college for four years … you’ve got to take it, it is a great opportunity,” Fitzpatrick said.

Matthew Fitzpatrick putts on the ninth hole. (Kari McMahon/MEDILL)

Despite Fitzpatrick focusing on putting after the first round, he said the main thing he is working on is technical improvements with his swing.

“Just trying to make my backswing a little bit more consistent,” Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick’s performance has improved in later rounds of the tournament. He finished the second round at one under par and the third round at three under par. He is currently tied for 22nd place on the leaderboard and will tee off for the final round on Sunday at 9:32 a.m. (PST).

Matthew Fitzpatrick and his caddy surveying a green during an early round of the Genesis Invitational. (Kari McMahon/MEDILL)
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