April 07, 2017: When you’re only 22 years old and already have multiple victories on the European Tour, making a double bogey at the last hole of the first round on a difficult day for scoring isn’t the end of the world. That certainly was Matthew Fitzpatrick ’s attitude Thursday afternoon at the Masters where, despite a 6 on the par-4 18th hole, he shot 71 at Augusta National to put himself in good position.
“Yeah, it’s a solid day, really,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s easy to place yourself out of it on a day like today. You come in with a 78 or 79 and before you know it, you’re battling to make the cut and compete.”
Fitzpatrick, who in 2013 became the first Englishman to win the U.S. Amateur since Harold Hilton in 1911, was in no danger of shooting an awful score Thursday. He birdied Nos. 8 and 9 to play the first nine in 35. Birdies at the 10th, 14th (where he chipped in) and 15th holes put him in the lead.
He made a par on No. 17 despite a poor drive into the trees on the left, but he wasn’t as fortunate on No. 18, where he likes to hit his tee shot from the far right side of the chute-like tee.
“I just didn’t really feel comfortable over the tee shot,” Fitzpatrick said. “My low one’s lower than everyone else’s, so I can actually kill someone at head high, so I didn’t feel comfortable with people sort of poking their head round. I should have backed off it and got everyone to move. So I’ll do that the rest of the week.”
His drive went quickly left, hit a tree and left him 267 yards to the front of the green. He hit his second shot into the front bunker, blasted on the green and three-putted.
Given the plot of the windy day, with puffy clouds moving across the sky like a drowsy time-lapse, the last-hole error was a misdemeanor not a felony.
“There’s no one going out there shooting an unbelievably low score,” Fitzpatrick said prior to Charley Hoffman’s 7-under 65 performance. “Obviously Thomas Pieters had it going early, but it sort of went away on the back. But I think that that’s the thing around here, you’ve just got to be so patient, and every shot you’ve got to think about it … you’ve got to always be switched on.”
Fitzpatrick was thinking clearly on the par-5 15th, which played unusually tough. Jordan Spieth hit his third shot with a wedge into the pond en route to a 9. Fitzpatrick, from a similar spot, chose his 54-degree club and hit it to six feet to set up a 4.
“We discussed in the morning that we were trying to pick a club up, hit it softer, in order to control the ball flight a little easier,” Fitzpatrick said. “So that’s what we did.”