Matthew Fitzpatrick on the U.S. Amateur, pressure on the course, and the Open Championship
You won the silver medal as the low amateur at last year's Open Championship at Muirfield. Your dad said it was the best week of your life. Was it?
It was and it wasn't, in that it was my first pro event. There were so many big names. I played with Tom Watson, Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter. I had all my family there, which was fantastic. But then, compared to winning the U.S. Amateur a month later, that was a special week too. So I'll say, at the time, it was the best week.
It will be hard to follow last year's performance. What are your expectations for this year's Open, at Royal Liverpool?
The same as last year: Try to make the cut and take it from there. You don't know what can happen. I might have a bad year for the rest of the year -- you just don't know. I'm just looking forward to each event. It's my first taste of pro events, and it's quite exciting seeing the famous people and now getting to know them.
Your Amateur win at Brookline last year looked almost too easy. Your first four matches were over after the 15th hole!
I had a good week two weeks before the U.S. Amateur, when I lost in the final of the English Amateur. It was an amazing week in general [at Brookline], and I don't think I'll ever have a week like it. There were probably more people at the U.S. Amateur watching me and my groups than there were at the Open.
What's the most pressure you've ever felt on the course?
I don't know -- looking back at the Amateur, I don't remember feeling any pressure.
You seemed very composed.
At the end of the day, my attitude is that I'm never under any real pressure because it's not the end of the world if it doesn't go right. I try to put things into perspective.
After winning the U.S. Amateur, you matriculated at Northwestern, but you decided to withdraw from school after one semester. Why?
There were quite a few reasons. I loved my time there. I met some great people, probably the closest friends I've made [in my life]. The last two weeks of the fall semester, I was stuck in my room during reading week, studying for finals, and I wasn't playing as much golf. I was a bit down about it because I wanted to be out practicing. I was putting in a lot of hours and only getting average grades, and I just wasn't getting enough time for my golf.
Also, the tournament exemptions you had ahead of you as the reigning U.S. Amateur champion [the 2014 Masters, U.S. Open and British Open] must have been on your mind.
That was the main reason [for leaving Northwestern]. I've got such good opportunities, and I wasn't going to be able to miss so much school to play in everything.
Did you feel like a burden lifted once you made the decision?
To be honest, yeah, I did. It was a strange one though, because since I made that decision, I'm full-time golf -- it's basically a job. It was a tough decision to make, but I am happy that I've made it.
Along with the three majors, you have exemptions into several other PGA Tour events. Any starstruck moments?
I met Arnold Palmer at Bay Hill. That was just amazing. I was having dinner with my coach and he came over and had a chat. Not that I expected him to forget me, but it was quite surreal that he came up, put his hand on my shoulder and said, "How's things?"
You're 19. Do you think you can compete with the best players in the world right now?
I wouldn't say [I'm on par] with the best in the world. I'm not really sure where I'm at. For me, it's about building on good rounds, until you get four in a row.
Will you turn pro after the British Open?
It depends how the year goes. If I have a good year, I will. If not, I won't.
Editor's note: Shortly after this interview was conducted, Fitzpatrick announced he would turn pro after the U.S. Open. He finished T29 in his professional debut last week at the Irish Open.
What's your ultimate golf-related goal?
Winning the Masters or the British Open. But right now, my goal is just to have a card on the PGA or European Tour.