Fitzpatrick outduels Spieth in playoff to secure RBC Heritage victory

By Sports Desk April 16, 2023

Matt Fitzpatrick secured a sentimental victory at the RBC Heritage on Sunday after surviving a three-hole playoff against Jordan Spieth.

Fitzpatrick, the reigning U.S. Open champion, had come into the final round with the outright lead after a spectacular career-best round of 63 on Saturday, but he found himself two strokes behind through 13 holes.

It was Spieth who had raced out to the lead with five birdies and eight pars through his 13 holes as part of the final group with Fitzpatrick, turning a two-stroke deficit into a two-stroke lead as Fitzpatrick was only one under in his round up to that point.

But Spieth would bogey the 14th, allowing Fitzpatrick to grab a share of the lead at 17 under with a birdie on 16, after both birdied the 15th.

Fitzpatrick blew a golden opportunity to take the outright lead with a poor birdie putt on 17, and then Spieth converted a tricky up-and-down on 18 to force a playoff.

It is a playoff that will live long in the memory of Spieth, as he had his potential tournament-winning birdie putt catch the lip on the first extra hole, and then again narrowly missed a birdie putt on the second playoff hole to keep Fitzpatrick alive.

Fitzpatrick eventually made the American pay, nearly holing out from the fairway on their third attempt at the 18th hole, tapping in for birdie as Spieth sailed his approach long and could not pull off a miracle.

It is Fitzpatrick's first non-major PGA Tour victory, and one that will carry some extra weight on a personal level after revealing this week that his family have made annual trips to Harbour Town Golf Links to watch this tournament since he was six years old.

Patrick Cantlay finished outright third at 16 under, with fellow top-10 ranked talent Xander Schauffele in outright fourth at 15 under.

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    Pre-tournament favourite Scheffler carded a four-under-par 67 in the first round on Thursday, putting him five strokes behind early pacesetter Xander Schauffele. 

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    Brooks Koepka and Scottie Scheffler are also among the prominent players chasing Schauffele, as they sit on four under after Thursday's action.

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    McIlroy's last major win came in 2014 at this tournament and venue. He came into the event in form after two straight wins and remains in contention despite not playing at his peak.

    "I rode my luck a little bit," McIlroy said to Sky Sports. "I hope I can drive it like Rory in 2014 over the next few days as I didn't drive it very well [in round one]. 

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    "Had some good up-and-downs, the chip-in on six. I had a little bit of a scrappy part around the turn there, but not really happy with how I played but I am at least happy with the score."

    Masters champion Scheffler will focus on his own game instead of focusing too much on Schauffele's stunning exploits.

    "Yeah, I mean, there's nothing I can do," Scheffler said. "Xander went out and played a great round in the morning, and I'm not really going to worry about trying to shoot 9-under. I'm just going to go out and try to hit good shots and play my own game.

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    "It is a big-boy golf course. It has gotten longer or maybe I have just got shorter!"

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    Rory McIlroy came in at five under, having carded a fine 66, while Tony Finau and Sahith Theegala went round in 65, while reigning champion Brooks Koepka managed an admirable four under.

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