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    At U.S. Open, Matt Fitzpatrick Wins His First Major Championship

    Will Zalatoris and Scottie Scheffler, who tied for second, made it interesting down the stretch at the Country Club, but Fitzpatrick held on to finish at six under par.BROOKLINE, Mass. — This year’s U.S. Open began as the setting for an unprecedented showdown between golfers who had remained loyal to the established PGA Tour and a breakaway pack of ex-colleagues who recently joined the new, rebel Saudi-backed LIV Golf series. But the anticipated confrontation at the Country Club outside Boston fizzled in the first round on Thursday when golfers from both camps got along without friction.The LIV Golf-aligned players also faded from contention early.By Sunday, the ongoing split in men’s professional golf was hardly settled, but it was overshadowed by a riveting final-round shootout among three of the sport’s best young players: Matt Fitzpatrick, 27, of England, and the 25-year-old Americans Will Zalatoris and Scottie Scheffler.In the end, Fitzpatrick, who won the U.S. Amateur at the Country Club nine years ago, survived the crucible, claiming his first win at a major golf championship and on the PGA Tour with a fourth-round 68 that made him six under par for the tournament. Fitzpatrick earned $3.15 million for the victory.Zalatoris and Scheffler finished one stroke back.The pivotal moment, as is common at major championships, arrived as Fitzpatrick stood on the final tee of the 72-hole, four-day tournament while leading by one stroke. Known for his meticulous precision — he has for many years charted the finite details and the outcome of every shot he hits in competition — Fitzpatrick had missed only two fairways to that point in his round.But his 3-wood on the 444-yard, par-4 18th hole was ripped left and landed in the center of a yawning bunker just off the fairway. His ball was 156 yards from the hole, which was positioned on a plateaued green protected in the front by a cavernous bunker that has ruined many a golfer’s round for decades.As Fitzpatrick later said, he had been struggling to hit competent shots out of fairway bunkers all year.“It’s the one place I didn’t want to be — No. 1 on that list,” Fitzpatrick said.Fitzpatrick drawing a crowd on the 15th hole during the final round.Jared C. Tilton/Getty ImagesBut Fitzpatrick, who tied for fifth at last month’s P.G.A. Championship and tied for 14th at this year’s Masters Tournament, has a wealth of elite golf experience. Moreover, he felt comfortable all week since he had only happy memories of competing at the Country Club because of his 2013 victory in the U.S. Amateur.“I’m a fast player, and when I look back, it just all happened so fast,” he said of his second shot at the 18th. “It was like just kind of let natural ability take over.”He pulled a 9-iron from his bag and imagined he was a junior player again.“I thought: try to hit it close,” Fitzpatrick said, smiling.The shot soared over the perilous high lip of the bunker he was in and above the crest of the vast bunker guarding the 18th green.“It was amazing to watch,” said Fitzpatrick, who knew at that instant that he would almost certainly make a par, which he did with two cautious putts.Zalatoris, Fitzpatrick’s playing partner, had a 14-foot birdie putt at No. 18 that would have set up a playoff. But the putt drifted less than an inch to the left of the hole.The victory, which was Fitzpatrick’s first on American soil (he has won seven international events), could be a breakthrough for a quiet and popular player in the close-knit circuit of pro golfers. In the past year, Fitzpatrick, now No. 10 in the men’s world golf rankings, has worked tirelessly off the course to increase the speed of his swing, which leads to greater distance, and usually to lower scores. Quiet and unassuming, Fitzpatrick also has an easy smile that hides a fierce competitive streak.Late Sunday night, Fitzpatrick admitted as much.“Although it doesn’t come across, because I like to be quite reserved, I just love beating everyone,” he said. “It’s as simple as that. Just love winning. I want to beat everyone.”While Saturday’s third round was played in gusting winds that made the greens firm and fast — and produced only seven rounds under par — Sunday’s conditions were benign in comparison.As a result, the field could be more aggressive, especially if a tee shot landed on the fairway.Zalatoris began the day tied for the lead with Fitzpatrick at four under par but faltered early when he three-putted from 67 feet below the second hole for a bogey. Then, on the next hole, he sent his second shot into a greenside bunker, which led to a second successive bogey. But Zalatoris rarely appeared rattled. He steadied himself with three consecutive pars and at the par-3, 158-yard sixth hole, he drilled his tee shot 2 feet from the flag for an easy birdie. Zalatoris’s approach shot to the par-4 seventh green from 164 yards skipped onto the green and rolled just an inch left of the hole. His tap-in birdie brought him back to four under par for the tournament. When Zalatoris sank a 17-foot birdie putt on the ninth hole, he made the turn at five under par, just one stroke behind Fitzpatrick.Will Zalatoris, on the third tee, finished second at a major tournament for the third time in the last two years.Aaron Doster/USA Today Sports, via ReutersAfter a steady par on the 10th hole, Zalatoris played it smart and safe on the downhill par-3 11th hole, which was playing just 108 yards on Sunday (with a dastardly difficult back left hole location). Zalatoris left his tee shot below the hole and rolled in an 18-foot putt for birdie to move to six under par, which gave him the tournament lead at the time. But a missed fairway off the 12th tee led to a layup short of the green and ultimately a bogey.After watching Zalatoris fall back to five under par, Fitzpatrick attacked. Standing over a 48-foot putt for birdie on the 13th hole, he rolled a snaking, left-to-right putt slowly but confidently into the hole to tie Zalatoris.Like everyone at the top of the leaderboard on Sunday, Fitzpatrick’s round had its inconsistencies. He started strong with three pars and two birdies in his opening five holes. But his tee shot on the par-3 sixth hole was excessively long, sailing 66 feet past the hole, which led to a bogey. Fitzpatrick rallied with a comfortable birdie on the par-5 eighth but like many on Sunday he could not sustain the positive momentum. He stumbled on the 10th hole when a lengthy second shot was short of the green and led to another bogey. Then the tiny 11th tormented Fitzpatrick as a 7-foot par putt skidded past the hole for a second successive bogey.Scheffler appeared to take a commanding lead in the tournament on Saturday with a sparkling front nine, but then gave it all back with a string of bogeys on the back nine. On Sunday, Scheffler carved up the front nine again, with four birdies in his first six holes.But Scheffler’s putting stroke deserted him on the back nine when he bogeyed the 10th and 11th holes when he needed three putts to get his ball in the hole on both greens. That dropped him to four under par for the tournament. Scheffler stayed in the battle though with five successive pars from the 12th through the 16th holes. More

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    Zalatoris, Fitzpatrick Share U.S. Open Lead Heading Into Final Round

    Tied for the tournament lead entering Sunday, Will Zalatoris will get another shot at his first major win after surviving a perilous third round.BROOKLINE, Mass. — The U.S. Open usually waits until the final day of its 72-hole crucible to toy with the world’s best golfers. But perhaps in tribute to the venerable history of this year’s host, vexing conditions — blustery winds, thick rough and fast greens — began to crush the wills and sap the souls of the players 24 hours early at the Country Club outside Boston.With an under-par score a rarity, the top of Saturday’s third round leaderboard was overhauled frequently. In the end, a handful of this year’s hottest golfers remained in contention, joined by some lesser-known names to set up what figures to be an entertaining final-round slugfest against a golf course that one of the co-leaders, Will Zalatoris, called “an absolute beast.”Zalatoris’s determined round of 67, the lowest on Saturday, left him four-under par for the championship, tied with Matthew Fitzpatrick of England, who shot a two-under par 68. Jon Rahm, the defending U.S. Open champion, squandered a late lead in the round to fall one stroke behind Zalatoris and Fitzpatrick.Rahm had rallied from a stumbling start in his first 13 holes to make three birdies from the 14th to the 17th holes. That moved him to five-under par for the championship.But Rahm’s drive from the 18th tee dribbled into a bunker on the left side of the fairway. Rahm’s first attempt to clear the bunker’s high lip failed, and his ball rolled back into the sand. His next shot landed in the easy-to-find 18th hole front bunker. The combination of mistakes brought a messy end to Rahm’s round: a double bogey that dropped him into third place.Afterward, Rahm said he misjudged how deep his golf ball had been in the sand, in part because it was getting dark.“I had a 9-iron in hand, that’s plenty to get over that lip,” he said. “Maybe I was trying to get too cute — looking for another birdie.“But it doesn’t really matter much,” Rahm added. “I’m content where I am and happy with how I played.”Three golfers were tied for fourth at two-under par, including Keegan Bradley, a Vermont native who was roundly cheered by the New England crowd as he walked up the 18th fairway on Saturday. Adam Hadwin of Canada, ranked 105th in the men’s world golf rankings, shot an even par 70 to tie Bradley. Scottie Scheffler, the reigning Masters champion, joined the group after a chaotic, inconsistent round.Zalatoris was one of the few who rarely struggled Saturday, with four birdies and only one bogey. Even when he badly sliced his last tee shot of the day 35 yards to the right of the 18th fairway, he landed in a corridor between a grandstand and another temporary structure.Though 224 yards away from the hole, he had enough of an opening to lace a precise long iron into the famed, mammoth bunker that protects the 18th green. From there, Zalatoris splashed a spinning, gutsy shot from the sand and then sank a six-foot par-saving putt.Although Zalatoris is just 25, he is playing in his ninth major golf championship and has already contended for a legacy-defining title multiple times. Last month, he lost the P.G.A. Championship playoff against Justin Thomas, and he finished second at the 2021 Masters Tournament. He also finished tied for sixth at this year’s Masters and at the 2020 U.S. Open.The narrow defeats in majors have not demoralized Zalatoris.“I know I’m going to get one,” he said after this year’s P.G.A. Championship. “It’s just a matter of time.”But Zalatoris knows the battle against the Country Club’s devilish, decades-old challenges will not be won, only survived.A Quick Guide to the LIV Golf SeriesCard 1 of 6A new series. More

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    A Weird, Wild and Entirely Typical Day at the U.S. Open

    It was a topsy-turvy second round on a vexing golf course as famed and anonymous players jockeyed up and down the leaderboard and turkeys paid a visit.BROOKLINE, Mass. — M.J. Daffue of South Africa, ranked 296th in the world, was not invited to the hospitality tent alongside the par-5 14th hole during the second round of the U.S. Open on Friday. But when his tee shot came to rest on the tent’s carpeted balcony next to a tree trunk, fence railing and overhanging, leaf-filled branches, Daffue was welcomed to the party.Eschewing the safety of a free drop on nearby grass, Daffue, who was leading the U.S. Open at the time, decided to use a 4-wood to smack his ball around the tree trunk, over the railing and under the branches to the 14th green 278 yards away.Nick Faldo, an NBC analyst, yelped: “What is he thinking?””I’m coming right over you, sir.” Solo leader @mjdaffue13 hits one off the deck…literally. #USOpen pic.twitter.com/5bo0YIIgpe— U.S. Open (USGA) (@usopengolf) June 17, 2022
    As fans held drinks tinkling with ice nearby, Daffue implausibly curved his shot away from all the danger and watched as his golf ball settled feet off the 14th green to set up a chance at an eagle that would extend his improbable lead.“Made bogey instead, unfortunately,” said Daffue, who never again held the second-round lead. “It was kind of a crazy day out there.”Daffue could have been speaking for the entire field. While the first round of the 122nd U.S. Open on Thursday featured the theater of a first-ever face-off between PGA Tour loyalists and rebel golfers who have defected to the Saudi-financed LIV Golf Invitational series, on Friday that drama had receded at the Country Club outside Boston.It was replaced by something more typical for a U.S. Open: a topsy-turvy day in vexing golf-course conditions that had a cavalcade of famed and anonymous players jockeying up and down the leaderboard.An hour before the sun set, Joel Dahmen, who has missed the cut in four of the nine major tournaments he has entered and is ranked 130th, was tied for the lead at the halfway mark with Collin Morikawa, who at 25 is at the vanguard of the youth movement overtaking professional golf.Morikawa shot a four-under-par 66 on Friday to move to five under par for the tournament. Dahmen, a popular, convivial presence on the tour known for the bucket hat that rarely comes off his head on the golf course, matched Morikawa with a steady round of 68 after shooting 67 in the first round. Dahmen, 34, has never finished higher than tied for 10th at a major championship and has never held the 36-hole lead at the PGA Tour event. He did not qualify for the event until June 6 and almost skipped it to concentrate on the rest of the PGA Tour season.Late Friday, Dahmen was still not awed by his standing after two rounds.“This is really cool, but it’s really all for naught if you go lay an egg on the weekend,” he said. “This is fun, but it would be really fun if I was doing this again Saturday and Sunday.”An eclectic fivesome of golfers were one stroke behind the co-leaders: Jon Rahm, who is ranked second worldwide; Rory McIlroy, who survived a scare on the third hole when he needed three swings to get his ball out of thick greenside fescue but still shot 69; Hayden Buckley, a PGA Tour rookie; Beau Hossler, 27, who played his first U.S. Open as a teenager; and Aaron Wise, who has one career PGA Tour victory.Morikawa noted that there were more than 20 players within five strokes of the lead.“No one has kind of run away with it,” he said. “But I guess that’s to be expected on a challenging golf course at the U.S. Open. But right now, my game feels really good and the last few days is a huge confidence booster for me heading into this weekend. Hopefully, we can kind of make some separation somehow.”A fan, bottom left, after being hit by a ball from Sam Horsfield on the third hole on Friday.Julio Cortez/Associated PressThe unpredictability of day was personified by Buckley, 26, who did not play competitive golf until he was a junior in high school and walked on to the golf team when he attended the University of Missouri.“It’s all happened kind of fast to be sure,” Buckley, who had a victory on the minor league Korn Ferry Tour before earning his PGA Tour card late last year, said. “But I felt pretty relaxed and confident today.”Buckley faltered in the middle of his second round when he had three bogeys in five holes. But Buckley rallied to shoot four under in his final seven holes.There was some normalcy to the second round. Scottie Scheffler, who sits atop the men’s world rankings, shot a three-under-par 67 to vault into contention. Scheffler, who won this year’s Masters Tournament and three other 2022 PGA Tour events, jump-started his round by pitching in for an eagle on the 14th hole. He did not do it from the hospitality tent balcony where Daffue found his golf ball, but his tee shot bounded into the thick rough 40 yards right of the hole.Then, in a scene that fit the day’s uncommon nature, Scheffler had to wait nearly a minute while a turkey sauntered across the 14th green. Smiling, Scheffler, who shot even par 70 on Thursday, reset his focus and knocked the ball in the hole. With a birdie on the 16th hole and two closing pars, Scheffler finished at three-under par for the tournament.Turkeys on the fairway of the 10th hole during the second round of the U.S. Open.Robert F. Bukaty/Associated PressCollin Morikawa, the seventh-ranked player worldwide, began his round at one-under par but quickly stormed up the leaderboard with birdies on the 12th, 14th and 17th holes. (He started his round on the 10th hole.) Morikawa, winner of the 2020 P.G.A. Championship, first took the second-round lead with a fourth birdie on the first hole before registering his first bogey on the fourth hole. But he closed with a flourish, a birdie on the par-5 eighth hole to finish with four-under-par 66.Morikawa has four top-10 finishes this year, including fifth at the Masters.Jon Rahm, the U.S. Open defending champion, began his round at one under par like Morikawa and teed off on the 10th hole. He eagled the short par-5 14th and deftly putted as the sun emerged on Friday afternoon and subtly dried out the fast, undulating greens. Rahm had three birdies and two bogeys.Matthew Fitzpatrick of England, who won the 2013 U.S. Amateur at the Country Club when he was 18, was among the first-round leaders when he shot 68 on Thursday. He continued his consistent, measured play with a 70 on Friday.Two familiar names also climbed onto the first page of the leaderboard Friday: Sam Burns, 25, who has won twice since March and finished second in another event, shot a 67 to move to two-under for the championship, and Brooks Koepka, the last man to win back-to-back U.S. Opens, shot 67 after an unsteady 73 in the first round. Koepka was recently married, and he conceded the wedding limited the amount of practice time he could devote to his golf game. But he said he has regained his confidence with more work out of competition.Phil Mickelson improved on his erratic 78 from Thursday’s first round to shoot a three-over-par 73 in the second round, but his putting continued to be the worst part of his game and he did not make the cut.Mickelson, usually garrulous, did not talk after his round on Thursday and kept things brief on Friday. Of his comeback after five months away from competition, Mickelson said: “I missed competing, but I also enjoyed some time away.”Other prominent players to miss the cut included Kevin Na and Louis Oosthuizen, who have joined Mickelson on the LIV Golf tour, and Billy Horschel, who won the Memorial Tournament earlier in the month. Also not eligible for the final weekend rounds will be Viktor Hovland and Tommy Fleetwood.Daffue, who finished at one under par for the tournament, was more than content to have more golf to play.“I’ve had goose bumps thinking about it,” he said. “I had an up-and-down day today, but to me, it’s nothing but good. I’m still going to play tomorrow in the U.S. Open.” More

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    Race to Dubai Players to Watch

    They are all among the leaders in the Race to Dubai, and a victory in this tournament could put one of them on top.The European Tour winds down for the year this week at the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai with a close battle over who will win the Race to Dubai and be crowned the No. 1 golfer in Europe.After 42 tournaments in 23 countries, the winner walks away with a portion of the record $9 million in prize money.Here are five players to watch.Will ZalatorisHe is one of this year’s breakout stars. Zalatoris, 25, of the United States, tied for sixth at the United States Open, eighth at the PGA Championship and won the PGA Tour’s Rookie of the Year. Most notably, Zalatoris crashed onto golf’s center stage when he took second at the Masters, losing to Hideki Matsuyama of Japan by one stroke“This past year has been pretty crazy,” Zalatoris said in an interview. “But it’s all good stuff. It’s been a lot of fun. Augusta is the one I’m most proud of, though. Just knowing that I can put myself in that position and be in contention and handle it. It’s nice to know that you can do stuff like that. It’s motivating.”Zalatoris, who is No. 11 in the Race to Dubai, has been working on distance control, but said there is no secret to his success. “The good is really good,” he said. “We just need to make the bad a little bit better.”Matt Fitzpatrick is the defending champion and comes to Dubai after winning the Andalucia Masters in Spain. He is sixth in the Race to Dubai rankings.Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesMatt FitzpatrickFitzpatrick, 27, of England is the defending champion and comes to Dubai fresh off a win at the Andalucia Masters in Spain, making for a total of seven wins on the European Tour.“I really think my game is trending in the right direction,” he told reporters recently. “Playing well in the next few weeks, I’ll hopefully have some good results.”Fitzpatrick, No. 6 in the Race to Dubai, said it was important to manage the amount of pressure he puts on himself and to be patient.“I think for me it’s just about trying to have consistency throughout the whole four aspects of my game,” he said. “This year it’s been driving and putting, but my approach play’s been off, so hopefully I’ll get that to a better level and keep going with that.”Collin Morikawa is leading the Race to Dubai. He has won two majors on the PGA Tour.Atsushi Tomura/Getty ImagesCollin MorikawaMorikawa, 24, of the United States, made his Dubai debut last year and is leading the Race to Dubai this year.“I’ve put myself in a pretty strong position to win,” he said in a phone interview. “Now, I’m trying to get prepped, just like any other event. I’m coming out trying to win. It’s going to be a great field of players. I’ve seen this course, and I know what to expect.”Morikawa is working on “a few small things,” he said. “Some things are physical, and some things are mental. It’s just about getting a little sharper. It’s the end of the season, and sometimes you get a little too relaxed. So it’s just about staying sharp when you’re out there.”Morikawa, who has won two majors and five tournaments on the PGA Tour, is trying to pare his approach to the game.“You try to think back to when you played well and try to put yourself in that situation and realize what you did. You try to be consistent and keep a routine. It’s about being simple and thinking simple things when you’re out on the golf course. Sometimes that’s not so easy. I can’t think about protecting my lead. I just need to go out and hit the target.”Richard Bland has been on a hot streak recently that puts him eighth in the Race to Dubai.Sean M. Haffey/Getty ImagesRichard BlandBland, of England, made headlines in May when he took his first European Tour win at the British Masters at 48 years old.After grinding his way through 478 tournaments over more than two decades, Bland finally won. He’s been on a hot streak ever since, with six top-10 finishes that place him at No. 8 in the Race to Dubai.What did Bland change in his game to achieve the recent results?“I haven’t done anything different,” he said in a phone interview. “I think it was just my time. It’s hard to explain why a win didn’t happen earlier. I just carried on playing well since the win. I haven’t changed the way I practice. I’m not trying to do anything different. Everything just clicked into place, and then you get the confidence of winning. It just snowballed from there.”Comfort, consistency and a clear head work for Bland. “I’m not a big tinkerer, or changer of things,” he said. “If it ain’t broke, then don’t try and fix it. If your game is in good shape, then just go play. I don’t want too many thoughts going around in my head.”This season Min Woo Lee of Australia has had his first two wins on the tour, and he is No. 5 on the Race to Dubai.Dan Peled/EPA, via ShutterstockMin Woo LeeLee, 23 of Australia, is the latest to crack the Race to Dubai top 10 after three recent performances on the European Tour. He tied for second at the Andalucia Masters, tied for eighth at the Portugal Masters and tied for fourth last week at the AVIV Dubai Championship. The results place him at No. 5 on the Race to Dubai.“I was going to take this week off, but I thought my form was pretty solid and it would be another challenge in front of me and I could overcome it,” Lee said in a statement. “It is tough, I haven’t been home in six months, but I’m looking forward to going home and relaxing.”Earlier this season, Lee notched his first two wins on the tour, narrowly edging out Fitzpatrick at the Scottish Open and finishing two shots ahead of Ryan Fox of New Zealand at the ISPS Handa Vic Open. More

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    Five Golfers to Watch at Abu Dhabi

    AdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyFive Golfers to Watch at Abu DhabiThe field seems impressive, and Lee Westwood is back to defend his title.Lee Westwood won the tournament last year and also was the European Tour’s Player of the Year.Credit…Mike Egerton/Press Association, via Associated PressJan. 20, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ETThe European Tour will start its new season this week with the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club in the United Arab Emirates. The tour will have 42 events in 24 countries, capped in November by the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.The HSBC championship, which has been held at the same course every year since 2006, is one of four tournaments in the Rolex Series.Here are five players to watch:Rory McIlroyMcIlroy, 31, of Northern Ireland, is due. His last victory came at the WGC-HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai in the fall of 2019. It was the same year he captured the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup for the second time.The Abu Dhabi course certainly appeals to McIlroy, who finished second in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015. He hasn’t played in the event since 2018, when he tied for third.Last year wasn’t one of McIlroy’s best. He recorded a number of very good rounds, but the problem was being able to put four of them together in the same week.Rory McIlroy at the Masters last year.Credit…Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesA good example was the Masters in November. Over the last three days, McIlroy shot 66, 67 and 69, one stroke lower in that span than the champion, Dustin Johnson. McIlroy, however, had started the tournament with a three-over 75. It was simply too much ground to make up.McIlroy, who was ranked No. 1 in the world before the pandemic, hasn’t won a major since 2014. Currently No. 6 in the rankings, he can achieve the Grand Slam with a victory in April at the Masters.Justin ThomasThomas, 27, ranked No. 3 in the world, will be playing for the first time in Abu Dhabi. He is one of the favorites every time he tees it up. He won three tournaments last season on the PGA Tour and now has 13 victories in his career.About two weeks ago, at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, Thomas finished third, shooting a final-round 66. His most costly mistake came when he bogeyed No. 17, as he finished one shot out of the playoff between Harris English and Joaquin Niemann.Justin Thomas at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.Credit…Cliff Hawkins/Getty ImagesThomas’s strong play at the tournament was overshadowed by his use of an anti-gay slur after missing a putt. He later apologized.In his three previous European Tour starts, his best finish was a tie for eighth at the 2018 HNA Open de France.Lee WestwoodWestwood, the defending champion and European Tour Golfer of the Year in 2020, is still quite capable at the age of 47.In last year’s event at Abu Dhabi, he held off Matthew Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood and Victor Perez to win his 25th European Tour victory. The wins have come in four separate decades.Westwood, the former No. 1 player in the world, will also have an opportunity this week to improve his chances of qualifying for the 2021 Ryder Cup, which will be held in Wisconsin.He has been a member of the European team 10 times, starting in 1997, and only Nick Faldo has appeared in more matches.A blemish in Westwood’s career is the lack of a major championship. He has come close with nine top-three finishes. In the 2019 British Open he finished in a tie for fourth.Westwood has been an excellent ball striker for many years. His short game, however, has not been at the same level.Tommy FleetwoodFleetwood, who turned 30 on Tuesday, has had a great deal of success at the Abu Dhabi course. He won the event in 2017 and 2018 and tied for second in 2020.Fleetwood, No. 19 in the world rankings, is also still chasing his first major title. He has been in contention on several occasions. In the 2018 United States Open, he fired a final-round 63 to finish one shot back of the winner, Brooks Koepka.In 2020, Fleetwood finished four times in the top three. Nonetheless, he knows the year could have been much better.“There are areas of my game where I felt I struggled,” he said. “My long game wasn’t up to the standard I feel it has to be.”Tommy Fleetwood at the Masters last year.Credit…Patrick Smith/Getty ImagesEven so, making the Ryder Cup team is well within his sights.The event, Fleetwood said, “is something you never want to miss again.” Fleetwood was 4-1 for the European team in 2018.Another goal is making it to Tokyo.“The Olympics is an occasion that I want to experience and represent my nation,” he said.Matthew FitzpatrickFitzpatrick ended the 2020 season with a striking victory at the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai. Tied for the lead heading into the final round, he birdied five of the first seven holes, prevailing by a shot over Westwood. It was his sixth European Tour triumph and first since the 2018 Omega European Masters.The win in Dubai couldn’t have come at a better time. In his prior 10 tournaments, he’d missed four cuts.“It was definitely great to get another win under my belt after so many second-place finishes over the last two seasons,” Fitzpatrick said.“I think any win or good result gives you some confidence, so hopefully I can carry the momentum into 2021. I’d say on the weeks leading up to the event I did some great swing work with my coach, Mike Walker, and that definitely showed.”Matthew Fitzpatrick at the BMW P.G.A. Championship in October.Credit…Paul Childs/Action Images, via ReutersOver the years, Fitzpatrick, No. 17 in the world, has revised his view of the Abu Dhabi course.“When I first came out on the European Tour, I kind of thought that it didn’t suit my game,” he said. “My perception of it was that it was a bomber’s paradise, but since then it’s kind of proved my theory wrong.”AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More