Matt Fitzpatrick called the Open’s controversial hole ‘interesting.’ Then it wrecked him
Matt Fitzpatrick seemed to be no fan of Royal Liverpool’s new par-3 17th. That was apparent whether you asked him on Monday before the tournament began or after Friday’s second round too.
At the start of the week, the reconfigured 136-yard “Little Eye” was a hot topic of conversation and Fitzpatrick may have kicked it off when he was asked about it at his pre-Open Championship press conference.
“Have you played the new 17th hole?”
“I’ll leave it at that.”
Fitzpatrick couldn’t resist a smirk as he bit his tongue. However, two days later, his caddie Billy Foster wasn’t as coy.
“There was nothing wrong with the little par-3 they had before, and they’ve created a monstrosity, in my opinion,” Foster told Golf Monthly. “The green is very small. If you land it a foot short, it rolls back into a coffin that’s underground, so deep. This is challenging the best golfers in the world that will be making 6s, 7s and 8s.”
Turns out one of the best golfers in the world who would make a 6 on the hole was Foster’s own boss! Awkward!
The 2022 U.S. Open winner actually knocked it into the center of the green and rolled in a 22-footer for birdie on Thursday, but Friday’s second round saw some carnage.
Playing just 132 yards, Fitzpatrick hit his tee shot long and into the natural sandy area left and beyond the green. That’s when things got “interesting.”
Like the brutal pot bunkers around Royal Liverpool, even the sandy area past the turtleback green has a steep, riveted face, and Fitzpatrick’s ball had fallen on the edge of it.
After one attempt, the ball hit the face and trickled back down. A second attempt was no better, only this time, the ball settled down into a hole in the soft and unraked sand.
The 28-year-old looked up and sighed in frustration.
Finally, his third try — and fourth shot — got out of the sandy area, but caught a slope and fed into the left greenside bunker.
“Yeah, he won’t have anything good to say about this hole for the rest of his life,” analyst Brad Faxon said on the USA Network broadcast. “Disaster!”
As Fitzpatrick hit his fifth shot — which had fortunately ended up in the middle of the bunker, giving up a play at the pin — USA analyst Paul Azinger opined on Fitzpatrick’s bit of irony.
“Let’s face it, his first shot was horrible,” Azinger said. “If you hit a poor shot at 17, like that, you are going to pay a price. I think what they’re most afraid of is they could hit a nice shot and have it go down into one of these pots. But, this is what makes it the scariest shot on the whole golf course and well, we’re seeing a prime example of what these players have to deal with come this week.”
Fitzpatrick nearly holed his fifth shot and tapped in for a deflating triple bogey. The Englishman had been bogey-free until then and had it to one-under for the tournament, in a tie for 13th, with two holes left in his second round.
The triple dropped him 29 spots on the leaderboard and to two over for the championship. He certainly wasn’t the first to record an “other” at “Little Eye” — Lucas Herbert did it when he was leading early in Round 1 — and he probably won’t be the last.
Not only did Fitzpatrick require a tough par-save on the 18th to comfortably make the cut after a second-straight 72, but it also evaporated his lead over his brother Alex. Playing in his first career major, Alex fired a one-under 70 Friday morning to also be two over for the tournament.
Bet that will make for some “interesting” dinner conversation at the Fitzpatrick house.