Dubai: Only last month, Matthew Fitzpatrick roared to the European Tour season-ending DP World Tour Championship, and already he is back in Dubai on the hunt for more silverware at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
The young Englishman claimed the DP World event at Jumeirah Golf Estates in December to end a season that saw him also claim second spot in the season-long Race to Dubai standings behind compatriot Lee Westwood.
Fitzpatrick was competing in Abu Dhabi at the HSBC Championship last week and now quickly turns his attention to Dubai, which has been a happy hunting ground for him as he also claimed the DP World Tour title in 2016 — defeating last week’s Abu Dhabi campion Tyrrell Hatton by one stroke in the process. However, he has yet to taste success in the Classic at Emirates Golf Club, something he would like to remedy this week.
Following a short break over Christmas, Fitzpatrick has recharged his batteries and is ready for a long season, where he has set out his targets for the year.
“Obviously we are only one event in and I have something like another 25 to go,” he told Gulf News in an exclusive chat about the campaign ahead. “It is early days and it is good to be back here so soon after my win. I had a good off-season, just working on a few things and sharpening up here and there. My goals are the same as every year — to contend at the Majors and hopefully I can finally knock one off.”
Fitzpatrick tied seventh in the Masters in 2016 and 12th at the US Open in 2018 and 2019, but he insists that he gives every competition the same importance, including this week in Dubai. The 26-year-old is also aware that his game has come on leaps and bounds since his first visit to the UAE, when he missed the ODDC cut back in 2015.
“Hopefully I can go close this week as I feel good,” he said. “I haven’t performed brilliantly here in the past but I am a completely different player now to when I first came out here. My game is more rounded and I am hitting it longer. That should suit the course here.
“I saw what Tyrrell did in Abu Dhabi first hand as I played with him for the first two rounds. He could aim the ball anywhere and it would head straight for the flag,” Fitzpatrick joked as he looks to emulate his fellow Englishman in Dubai. Hatton romped to a four-stroke victory over runner-up Jason Scrivener.
“It can be inspiring to see your fellow golfer thrive, but for me to win it is all about myself and my motivation. I am the one who needs to put in the hard work and find my own motivation to win, just like I did here in December.
“Tyrrell is a great lad and thoroughly deserved his win. Now it is up to me to go out and do what I can to get that victory too.”
Fitzpatrick, who is sponsored by global consulting firm Protiviti, admits that life in the coronavirus bio-bubble can be tough and a little mundane, but the benefits far outweigh the sacrifices.
“The European Tour organisers have done a brilliant job to get us playing,” he said. “I cannot praise them highly enough. It can be hard staying on site and visiting the same restaurant every night and staring out your window at the practice range rather than getting a change of scene. It’s a bit like sleeping in your office. But it is great to be playing at all, considering where we might be if they guys had not worked so hard to get a season together.
We — the players — just turn up and compete. We are living the dream and are getting paid to play golf.
“It is all about the health care workers and hotel staff — who are in the same isolation bubble — along with the organisers. It is all down to them and all the players really appreciate their sacrifices.”
Matthew Fitzpatrick factfile
Born September 1, 1994
Height 5ft 10in
Residence Jupiter, Florida
Turned professional 2014
Professional wins 6
Highest ranking 16 (December 2020)
Best results in major championships
Masters T7 — 2016
PGA Championship T41 — 2019
US Open T12 — 2018, 2019
The Open Championship T20 — 2019