‘Hot prospect Fitzpatrick gets a sorely needed win’

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Matthew Fitzpatrick won the European Masters at Crans Montana in Switzerland last week

Matthew Fitzpatrick is “hell bent” on winning majors and becoming world number one, according to the man who helped steer him to his latest European Tour victory.

With Sunday’s triumph at the European Masters at Crans Montana in Switzerland, the 23-year-old from Sheffield became the youngest Englishman to reach four tour wins.

Think about it – he has reached that mark faster than superstars such as Sir Nick Faldo, Justin Rose, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood.

And yet, last week’s success was much needed, a win described by Fitzpatrick’s coach Mike Walker as “massive”.

Beating Australia’s Scott Hend in a sudden-death play-off ended a winless run stretching back to last November’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

More significantly, Fitzpatrick was also able to put behind him a disappointing sequence of summer results and re-energise the feeling that he is indeed Britain’s hottest golfing prospect.

A debutant in last year’s Ryder Cup, Fitzpatrick has now done a vital job of cementing his place at golf’s top table for the foreseeable future.

“I would say it is a massive win for him because it is hard to stay in the top 50 and they’ve all got an eye on that,” Walker told BBC Sport.

“He was down to 48th and as much as you try and put that out of your mind it is definitely in the back there. Now he’s 33rd in the world and that’s massive for all kinds of reasons.

“I think he will be very, very happy with this win.”

A visibly frustrated Fitzpatrick missed the cut at August’s US PGA, shooting rounds of 76 and 74

Top 50 status guarantees entry to the four majors and World Golf Championships, where ranking points and prize funds are at their most weighty.

Fitzpatrick had been in danger of tumbling down the rankings after a quiet summer in which his best result was a share of 35th place at the US Open in June.

At the most recent major, August’s US PGA Championship at Quail Hollow, he looked a disconsolate figure. Rounds of 76 and 74 meant a missed cut and his frustration was palpable to anyone watching his fruitless toil.

“He had his best start to the season so far and it was largely American-based but he didn’t quite do enough to get the headlines,” Walker said.

“But then in the middle, it is fair to say he was not at his best form and he was just very, very frustrated by the game.”

Fitzpatrick is blessed with a superb competitive temperament and magnificent touch on the greens. But there remains a weakness in his comparative lack of length off the tee.

“That’s been the fundamental dialogue in the background,” Walker told me. “He went to Erin Hills [the venue for this year’s US Open] and he felt he drove it well and hit a lot of fairways, more than 80% that week, but didn’t contend. And his statistics showed he lost relative to the field because of his length.”

Bit by bit, however, Fitzpatrick is trying to find the launch angle that will add distance to his tee shots.

Former world number one Luke Donald was quick to praise Fitzpatrick after his win in Switzerland

“It’s a game where everyone wants instant gratification, they want to hit it longer immediately, and he does have that in his locker,” Walker added.

“But it is getting used to the change in the ball flight that he’s found quite difficult.

“If he hits it on the up he gains quite a lot of yardage. It’s just doing it incrementally so it creeps up on him rather than an instant thing that he has to get used to.”

Walker describes his pupil as “elite” on the greens and on shots ranging from 150-250 yards. “He could be slightly better from 50 to 150 yards in,” he said.

But the teacher is in no doubt about Fitzpatrick’s appetite for improvement and desire to win the biggest prizes.

“You don’t have to challenge him – he’s hell bent on things like that,” Walker said. “He wants to be the best in the world and he wants to win major championships.”

To have four European Tour wins at such a young age marks out the former US Amateur Champion as a truly special talent. “It’s a phenomenal achievement,” Walker said.

Fitzpatrick was 18 when he won the 2013 US Amateur Championship, the first Englishman to do so

“Naturally his attention will move towards those bigger prizes.”

Fitzpatrick’s happy knack of closing out wins is an invaluable commodity. On Sunday he carded a superb 64 to make the play-off.

“As a coach there are some players you are more comfortable watching than others,” Walker said.

“It’s not when he’s in contention when I worry about him, it’s when he’s sort of bubbling in the background. You know how desperate he is to be where he feels he belongs.”

The young Englishman’s game was certainly at home in the Swiss mountains last week but adding attributes that will make him a winner on the game’s biggest stages remains a work in progress.

Nevertheless, each victory he ticks off provides a vibrant illustration that Fitzpatrick is firmly on course to fulfil huge potential.

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