Fitzpatrick primed for battle in Hazeltine
Matthew Fitzpatrick is heeding the wise words of Ryder Cup hero and 2016 vice-captain Thomas Bjørn to ‘expect to play one match, prepare to play five’ as the Englishman looks forward to his debut in golf’s greatest team event at Hazeltine National next week.
The 21 year old is the youngest member of Darren Clarke’s European team but is certainly not lacking in confidence ahead of the showpiece in Minnesota.
Victories at last season’s British Masters supported by Sky Sports and this year’s Nordea Masters went a long way in securing the Sheffield player’s spot as Team Europe target an unprecedented fourth successive victory.
Fitzpatrick has been taking plenty of advice from his more experienced fellow European Tour members but it was just one line of guidance from Bjørn which has inspired and motivated him the most.
“I had some good advice from Thomas Bjørn who said, ‘expect to play one, prepare to play five,’” he explained. “That’s quite interesting, I didn’t think about that way but you might not end up playing any of the foursomes or four balls.
“It might just work out that way, but I think it’s a great bit of advice. You might end up playing five if you’re playing well and you need to be ready to do that. At the same time, if you’re not playing well you just need to be ready to do as well as you can to play that one match.
“I think for me it’s all about the experience of having the crowds and family and friends supporting me, just the whole experience of it, being amongst the guys who have been on the team already. There are some great names there and it will be a great week, a great experience.
“My American friends from University will definitely be supporting me, otherwise they won’t be coming in! They said they’ll definitely be supporting me at the weekend so that will be nice.
“I can understand that we might be underdogs but at the same time there’s no reason why we can’t go there and win. We’ve done it before and won the last three. It’s a bit of a different team for us and for them but I think it’s better to be the underdog.”
The former US Amateur Champion is not overly concerned about whom he might partner in the four balls or foursomes as long as he is playing, but there is one specific potential partner he would love to stand alongside on the first tee – the man who holed the crucial putt the last time The Ryder Cup visited American shores.
“I’ve spoken to Darren a little bit about the pairings – I’d love to be paired with Martin (Kaymer),” he said. “I’ve played a lot with him the last year or so and spent quite a lot of time in his company. I get on with all the guys so I do feel like I could play with a couple of them.
“It would be nice to have an all-Sheffield pairing with Danny (Willett) but it would be understandable if we didn’t play together – we’re both rookies – but maybe in the future it could be a pairing.
“The American team looks very good. Obviously it’s their home Ryder Cup and they’ll have a ton of support but our team is very good as well. They’re both great teams and whoever Davis Love picks as the last wild card will be a good addition to the team I’m sure.
“It will be a tough game and I’m sure both sides will be looking forward to it.”