Ahead of the members vote for the Sports Journalists’ Association British Sports Awards, we asked members of the SJA Academy to make their case for contenders to win sportsman, sportswoman and team of the year. BEN FLEMING with the case for maiden major winner Matthew Fitzpatrick.
A stellar year for Matthew Fitzpatrick has seen the Sheffield-born golfer win his first major and cement himself amongst the elite stars of the sport.
In his 23 starts this year, he has recorded one win, ten top 10’s, and four top 20’s which has seen Fitzpatrick rise from 27th in the world rankings to his current position in the top 10.
The highlight of his season, however, was undoubtedly his spectacular victory at the 2022 US Open, securing his first major triumph and professional win, of any kind, on American soil.
The 27-year-old fought off final-round competition from then-world number one, Scottie Scheffler, and rising American star Will Zalatoris to win the tournament by one stroke, becoming the first Englishman to win a major tournament since Danny Willett’s Masters’ victory in 2016.
The victory also made the world number 10 the first man since Jack Nicklaus to win both the US Amateur and US Open titles at the same venue with Fitzpatrick having won the US Amateur title at Brookline back in 2013.
Despite his relatively young age, this has not been an instant rise to stardom for Fitzpatrick. It is instead one that serves to highlight his years of dedication and his ruthless pursuit of technical brilliance that has elevated his game to his point.
His pure ball-striking capabilities were never in question — this is a man who won the British Masters aged 21 — but many wondered if he had the power and nerve to contend at the top.
However, after the last year that has all changed.
His work with biomechanist Sasho MacKenzie has increased his club head speed off the tee from 112mph in 2019–2020 to 119mph this season.
He has gone from a consistently below-average driver, in terms of distance, to one of the best on the tour.
Combined with the improvements to his work around the green, he now possesses one of the most complete games in golf and the results have reflected that.
In the final round of the US Open, and only a month after a disappointing end to the PGA Championship, many would have wilted under the pressure.
But, instead, Fitzpatrick rose to the occasion.
Not since Nick Faldo in 1996 or Brooks Koepka in 2017 had someone hit 17 greens in regulations to win a major in the final round.
On that Sunday, Fitzpatrick became the third.
Fitzpatrick has proved he belongs with the very best in the sport and he’s got a major trophy to prove it – catapulting him to the top of the game.
Full members can vote here for their full choice.