It's no surprise that at the end of this latest PGA Tour season it was Rory McIlroy ultimately hosting the FedEx Cup, considering the statistically dominant campaign the Northern Irishman put together.

Though his three-win season might not appear at the top of his career highlights - the major championship triumphs in 2012 and 2014 may never be matched - it nevertheless culminated in one of the best statical campaigns of his heralded career.

After lifting the FedEx Cup for the third time, the first player in Tour history to do so, McIlroy capped off a season that saw him earn his fourth scoring average title, at 68.67, the only player on the PGA Tour to finish with a sub-69 average (the overall average for the 2021-22 season was 71.092).

Only Vijay Singh (2003) and Tiger Woods (eight different times) have matched McIlroy with a season-long average below 68.7.

McIlroy's six-shot comeback over Scottie Scheffler at the Tour Championship also cemented the 33-year-old’s fourth season of at least three wins, as he also jumpstarted his campaign with a victory at the CJ Cup before claiming the RBC Canadian Open midway through the year.

"I'm back to playing the golf that I'm used to playing, and the golf that I know that I can play," McIlroy said prior to the FedEx St. Jude Championship. "COVID was a weird time for everyone, and then coming out of it and going into the 2021 season, with my swing where it was, I was trying to change a couple of things and was going down a path I realised wasn't the path for me. [I'm] coming back out of that and now getting back to playing the golf I know I can play."

The late-season rise was in no doubt due to McIlroy's impressive resurgence across several aspects of his game. After ending The Masters ranked next-to-last among 209 TOUR players in average proximity from 50 to 125 yards (24 feet, one inch), McIlroy went on a tear that saw him close out the season with an average of 14 feet, one inch, best among all players with more than 30 attempts in that span.

But that wasn’t the only area where he’s upped his play. McIlroy ranked No. 131 in scrambling percentage last season, only to finish 30th this year, while also improving more than 50 spots in Strokes Gained: Around the Green (63rd in 2020-21 to 12th this season). Perhaps most importantly, the 22-time PGA Tour winner was 16th for Strokes Gained: Putting per round, after he finished 66th in 2021 and 122nd in 2019-20.

McIlroy ended the season ranked inside the top-50 in all four primary Strokes Gained categories (off-the-tee, approach the green, around the green and putting), only the second time he's done that, joining the 2018-19 season. That season he also won the TOUR Championship and RBC Canadian Open, along with The Players Championship.

"This year feels very similar to the way I played in 2019," he said. "It's a carbon copy in terms of the consistency and the numbers and the strokes gained numbers, but my finishes in the majors have been better and that's been – that's been a real positive looking ahead into next year and the future."

CANTLAY REPEATS

Before McIlroy hoisted the PGA Tour's ultimate prize, all eyes were on Patrick Cantlay for a potential repeat.

Last season's FedEx Cup champion was primed to go back-to-back after he became the first player to successfully defend a Playoffs event since their 2007 inception. At the BMW Championship, the 30-year-old birdied the 17th at Wilmington Country Club to hold off Scott Stallings in a one-shot victory, his second win at the event in as many years.

A year ago, Cantlay survived in a six-hole playoff at Maryland's Caves Valley Golf Club to win the BMW Championship, before sealing the FedEx Cup with a one-shot win over Jon Rahm.

"I think every time I've tried to defend, I don't think I've been able to do it, but it's something that you definitely circle on your calendar as something you want to do," Cantlay said. "These golf courses reminded me a lot of each other, and I was glad not to go six holes in a playoff."

Much like a season ago, it was largely the putter that lifted Cantlay to a post-season victory. Over the last two FedEx Cup Playoffs, Cantlay is +18.39 in total Strokes Gained: Putting, the most of any player.

The BMW Championship was a microcosm of that, as Cantlay was ranked 49th of 67 players in the third round, losing 1.493 strokes to the field. But after a late-night putting session, the Californian ranked 10th in Sunday’s final round, gaining 1.628 strokes on the field. He was a perfect 10-for-10 on Sunday putting inside 3 feet, after missing one in 13 attempts the day before. He was 16-for-17 from inside 10 feet on Sunday and just 15 for 20 on Saturday.

ZALATORIS BREAKS THROUGH

Fans have been anxiously awaiting Will Zalatoris’s first trip to the PGA Tour winner's circle, after heart-aching playoff losses this year at the Farmers Insurance Open and PGA Championship.

Viewers finally got their wish in the first leg of the FedExCup Playoffs, as the young 26-year-old poured in a clutch par at the last to force extra holes with Sepp Straka. He ultimately outlasted the Austrian on the third playoff hole.

"It's kind of hard to say 'about time' when it's your second year on Tour, but about time," Zalatoris joked. "Obviously this was a grind considering the start that I had. I love this golf course, I played well here last year. Considering all the close finishes that I've had this year, to finally pull it off, it means a lot."

The budding superstar led the field in both Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green (+1.93) and Tee-to-Green (+2.35), becoming just the second player to lead both at the FedEx St. Jude Championship (Dustin Johnson, 2020).

All the more impressive was that he finished the first round at one over, the highest score to par after the opening round by a winner at the FedEx St Jude Championship. The previous worst opening round by a winner? Vijay Singh, who was one under after 18 holes in 2008.

Zalatoris was tied for 86th after the first round, marking the lowest position by a winner after the opening round of the playoffs (McIlroy previously held the honor, sitting at T67 after the opening round of the 2016 Dell Technologies Championship). 

Will Zalatoris' bid to win the FedExCup is over after he withdrew from the Tour Championship due to a back injury.

The 26-year-old suffered two herniated discs during the third round of the BMW Championship last weekend and pulled out after the fourth hole.

Zalatoris had given himself a great chance of winning the FedExCup with his maiden PGA Tour triumph at the FedEx St. Jude Championship, but he will not be fit for the Tour Championship at East Lake this week.

The world number nine, who is third behind Scottie Scheffler and Patrick Cantlay in the FedExCup standings, will also miss the Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow next month.

If all 29 players complete 72 holes in Atlanta this weekend, Zalatoris will finish 30th in the FedExCup and pick up bonus money of $500,000, with the winner pocketing $18million

Allen Hobbs, Zalatoris' agent, said in a statement on Tuesday: "After Will’s withdrawal from the BMW Championship on Saturday, his medical team determined that the source of his back pain is two herniated discs. 

"Unfortunately, this means that Will is unable to play this week at the TOUR Championship. He is also very disappointed that he will not have the opportunity to play in next month's Presidents Cup, where he was hoping to play for Captain Love [Davis III] and represent the United States. 

"Will would like to thank his fans, sponsors, the TOUR, and his team for all of their support. He is fully focused on getting healthy and back onto the course as soon as he is able."

Defending champion and world number four Patrick Cantlay stormed into a one-shot lead at the final turn at the BMW Championship at Wilmington Country Club after a six-under-round of 65 on Saturday.

Cantlay had three birdies on a bogey-free front nine, but catapulted himself up the leaderboard down the back nine with birdies on the 12th and 13th holes, followed by a 104-yard eagle hole-out on the 14th.

The American had bogeyed on the penultimate hole after missing a routine putt but made birdie on the 18th after an excellent approach to re-claim his outright lead by one stroke ahead of Xander Schauffele and Scott Stallings.

Last year's FedEx Cup champion Cantlay is 12 under at the top, with Schauffele and Stallings both carding five-under rounds of 66 on Saturday to move up to 11-under overall.

Adam Scott, who led by one stroke at the halfway mark, is third on 10 under alongside world number one Scottie Scheffler.

Scheffler was on track for a share of the lead, at the very least, but back-to-back bogeys on the 16th and 17th holes stalled his progress before a birdie on the last after a fine 136-yard approach kept him in touch.

Two-time major winner Collin Morikawa and Aaron Wise are within range at nine under, while Rory McIlroy is back at seven under after four bogeys on Saturday including one on the 18th.

Cameron Young shot a one-over-round of 72 to slip to six-under overall, with Jon Rahm finding his form with a six-under-round of 65 but he remains back at five-under overall after his slow start.

Jordan Spieth slipped way out of contention to be four-under overall after a disastrous third round, carding a three-over 74 with a double bogey in the fifth hole, along with five bogeys and four birdies.

Last week's FedEx St. Jude Championship winner Will Zalatoris retired mid-round after succumbing to a lower back injury.

Will Zalatoris has withdrawn from the BMW Championship after suffering a lower back injury as he aims to ensure his fitness for a tilt at the upcoming Tour Championship in Atlanta.

Zalatoris – who moved to the top of the FedEx Cup standings by claiming his first Tour-level triumph at the FedEx St. Jude Championship last week – was forced to withdraw midway through Saturday's third round at the Wilmington Country Club.

The 26-year-old has finished as a runner-up at two majors this year, following up 2021's second-placed finish at the Masters by coming close to victory at both the US PGA Championship and the U.S. Open.

Zalatoris was four under for the tournament when he tweaked his back on the third hole in North Carolina, and his manager Allen Hobbs said his hopes of participating in the FedEx Cup finale were key to the decision to drop out.

"He felt that it was best to withdraw from the BMW Championship so he can work with his trainer the next few days to get the inflammation to calm down," Hobbs said.

"Will looks forward to playing next week in Atlanta."

Zalatoris, who moved to ninth in the world rankings with his long-awaited victory last Sunday, had trailed leader Adam Scott by five shots at the halfway stage of the BMW Championship.

Will Zalatoris took inspiration from Steph Curry and received congratulations from movie star Adam Sandler after getting the monkey off his back with a memorable first PGA Tour triumph.

Having made a terrific clutch par at the final hole, Zalatoris defeated Sepp Straka in an eventful play-off to win the FedEx St. Jude Championship on Sunday.

After sinking his left-to-right putt from 10 feet at his 72nd hole, Zalatoris yelled "what are they gonna say now?" in a seeming reference to those who have questioned whether he has a strong enough putting game to win the big tournaments.

Zalatoris, who grew up in the Bay Area and later moved to Dallas, said it was an acknowledgement to Golden State Warriors star Curry, a big golf fan himself, who had uttered the same words when his team won the NBA title.

"I did say that," said Zalatoris.

"Yeah, you know, I'm a big Warriors fan and obviously Steph, he's a Cal Club guy, he's a pretty big inspiration obviously. I follow the Warriors like crazy and when he said that, it kind of related to kind of my journey so far.

"So being that close and then kind of being written off here and there and then obviously finally pulling off, it was – I actually can't believe I said that actually."

Zalatoris had been in danger of becoming golf's nearly man having lost play-offs at the Farmers Insurance Open and US PGA Championship, and tied for second at the U.S. Open.

"Yeah, it's kind of hard to say 'about time' when it's your second year on Tour, but about time," he added.

Zalatoris' win was made all the more impressive by the fact he had gone through the upheaval of changing caddies.

He opted to part with Ryan Goble midway through last week's Wyndham Championship, explaining how he did not want the stress of professional golf to put a strain on their friendship.

In his place came the experienced Joel Stock, who Zalatoris said had helped keep him in the moment.

"We tried to communicate as much as we possibly could Monday through Wednesday to make this adjustment as easy as possible," he said, 

"But you never know what it's going to be like until you're in the heat of the moment. Joel was really playing more sports psychologist today. He was awesome. He was ripping dad jokes the entire day to try to keep it loose, and they're terrible but it gave us some pretty good laughs and kept it light.

"When the moment needed to be serious he told me to focus on my breathing. He did an amazing job."

And after his special win, Zalatoris earned recognition from Sandler, a man who has previously interacted with the 25-year-old.

It was noted how Zalatoris bears a resemblance to the caddy for Sandler's 'Happy Gilmore' character.

Posting on Twitter, Sandler wrote: " Congrats Will! I’m happy for you! Happy’s happy for you! Enjoy it all!"

Will Zalatoris held his nerve for a clutch par putt on the 72nd hole to force a playoff at the FedEx St. Jude Championship, setting up a dramatic three-hole showdown where he defeated Sepp Straka to claim his first career PGA Tour win.

Straka came into Sunday's final round at 12 under – one stroke off leader J.J. Spaun – while Zalatoris was one shot further back at 11 under with Cameron Smith. When Spaun imploded, going on to shoot Sunday's worst round with a 78, and Smith was handed a two-stroke penalty prior to his round for an illegal drop earlier in the tournament, the field fell away and left just Straka and Zalatoris at the top.

Zalatoris continued to shed his reputation as a poor putter, and he did so in the biggest moments, draining a must-make 10-footer on the last hole to finish his tournament at 15 under, where he and Straka were three strokes clear of the pack – and the playoff was anything but boring.

On the first playoff hole – the 18th, which was playing as the toughest hole on the course – both players reached the green in regulation, and while neither were in true birdie range, Zalatoris had a significantly longer distance to cover. But he showed why he was ranked number one for lag putting this week and was able to tap-in from a foot to head to the second hole.

Replaying the 18th, Zalatoris' tee shot hit the cart path, seemingly handing Straka the tournament, but then Straka put his tee shot so close to the water's edge that he opted to take the penalty instead of trying to hack one out with a foot in the water.

Straka pulled off what would usually be a title-winning approach shot, taking an aggressive line and landing six feet from the hole, but due to the penalty stroke it allowed Zalatoris to chip back out into the fairway and bring his approach to just over 10 feet, where he would sink another incredibly gutsy putt to extend things to a third playoff hole.

After losing two playoffs this season, Zalatoris would have felt the trophy slipping out of his hands when his tee shot on the par-three 11th hole found the rock wall on the fringe of the water. He was not in the water, but the shot was unplayable, meaning a par would give Straka the win – and then Straka landed in the water.

The Austrian's next shot sailed over the green into the bunker, while Zalatoris' second try at his approach was perfect, giving himself another seven-footer for the win, and he made no mistakes.

With the win, Zalatoris avoided becoming the player with the most prize money in a season without a victory, raising his season earnings to over $9million in the process with his $2.7m winner's cheque.

American duo Lucas Glover and Brian Harman finished tied for third at 12 under, while Spain's Jon Rahm, England's Matt Fitzpatrick and Australia's Adam Scott were part of the seven-man group tied for fifth at 11 under.

After his two-stroke penalty, Cameron Smith finished at nine under with rising star Joo-hyung 'Tom' Kim, with Viktor Hovland at eight under, and Wyndham Clark snuck into the next round of the playoffs as his seven under finish moved him up to exactly 70th in the FedEx Cup standings.

American J.J. Spaun is 18 holes away from a wire-to-wire victory at the FedEx St. Jude Championship after finishing Saturday one stroke clear of the chasing field, shooting a two-under 68 to head in at 13 under.

After rounds of 62 and 67 had Spaun leading at the conclusion of each of the first two rounds, he opened his round on Saturday with nine consecutive pars, but after bogeying the 10th, he responded with birdies on 11, 16 and 17.

Austria's Sepp Straka was all set to finish tied with Spaun at 13 under before he bogeyed the 18th, leaving him in outright second-place at 12 under.

A pair of serious challengers are part of the three-man group tied for third at 11 under, with Trey Mullinax being joined by potential PGA Tour Player of the Year Cameron Smith and consistent major contender Will Zalatoris.

Zalatoris, specifically, has been in sparkling form after struggling to a one-over opening round, shooting Friday's round of the day with a 63, and only Im Sung-jae posted a better Saturday score than his 65.

In classic Zalatoris fashion, his work with the putter was not pretty – dropping 0.38 shots on the greens according to Data Golf's strokes gained stats – but he thrived from tee-to-green, finishing with the most strokes gained from approach shots (2.90) while coming in third in the off-the-tee category (1.78).

American duo Tyler Duncan and Troy Merritt are tied for sixth at 10 under, while Saturday's top performer Im rode his terrific round to join the logjam at nine under, which features the red-hot Tony Finau and U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick.

Last week's winner Joo-hyung 'Tom' Kim is a further shot back at eight under along with South Korean compatriot Lee Kyoung-hoon, America's Collin Morikawa and Chile's Joaquin Niemann, with Spain's Jon Rahm and Australia's Adam Scott part of the small group at seven under.

After shooting a 62 on Thursday to be the early joint-leader, Kim Si-woo's week has taken a turn for the worst as he followed it with a 73 on Friday and a 72 on his third trip around TPC Southwind.

J.J. Spaun holds the outright lead at halfway at the FedEx St. Jude Championship while 2022 Open Championship winner Cameron Smith made his move and Rory McIlroy and Scottie Scheffler missed the cut.

Spaun had shared the lead with Kim Si-woo after the opening day at TPC Southwind and backed that up with a three-under-par round of 67 to lead at 11 under after 36 holes. The American maintained his lead with five birdies along with two bogeys in his round.

Kim slid down the leaderboard after a three-over-par round with Sepp Straka, who finished with three straight birdies, and Troy Merritt in joint second at 10 under behind Spaun, with Denny McCarthy one shot behind them.

Merritt, McCarthy and Smith all carded five-under-par rounds of 65, with the latter moving up the leaderboard with birdies and an eagle on the par-five 16th hole.

The Australian is eight-under-par after two rounds, equal with Brian Harman, Tony Finau and Ryan Palmer.

Kevin Kisner is a further shot back after seven birdies highlighted his round of six-under-par 64, but that was bettered by both Tyler Duncan and Will Zalatoris.

Duncan and Zalatoris carded rounds of 63, with the former going bogey free and draining seven birdies to move into joint ninth.

Zalatoris had shot a first-day 71 but improved with seven birdies across a bogey-free round too, but is six under overall.

McIlroy headlined the list of names to miss the cut, with three bogeys holding him back, including one on the 18th hole, as he shot 69 to fall short by one stroke.

World number one Scottie Scheffler also failed to make the cut, despite an improved second round, not helped by a double bogey on the par-four ninth hole.

20-year-old Kim Joo-hyung became the second-youngest player since 1932 to win a PGA Tour event – trailing only Jordan Spieth – as he produced a final-round 61 to run away with a five-stroke buffer and claim the Wyndham Championship at 20 under.

In doing so, he became the event's youngest ever winner, and after entering the last tournament of the season ranked in the 400s in the FedEx Cup standings, he booked his place in the playoffs later this month.

His final round included an incredible front-nine score of 27, with six birdies and an eagle, and making his win even more remarkable is the fact that he started his week with a quadruple bogey from his opening hole on Thursday.

Speaking to CBS after stepping off the final green, Kim said his ability to keep a sense of humour about his rough start was the key to bouncing back.

"I stayed very patient this week," he said. "I felt like after that quad, once I started to laugh it off I could feel like I was in a much better mental state. 

"Instead of being angry and depressed I just stayed in the moment – I can't believe I won with a quadruple bogey on the first hole – hopefully that doesn't happen again.

"It's definitely a week I will remember forever."

He added: "it was a hard day – I didn't know golf was this stressful before."

Finishing in a tie for second was Kim's South Korean compatriot Im Sung-jae and American John Huh at 15 under, with Ben Griffin alone in fourth at 14 under.

American trio Max McGreevy, Russell Henley and Taylor Moore tied for fifth at 13 under, and there was another two-stroke gap to the group rounding out the top-10 at 11 under consisting of England's Tyrrell Hatton, Australia's Cameron Percy, India's Anirban Lahiri, and Americans Brandon Wu and Chesson Hadley.

Germany's Stephan Jaeger posted Sunday's second-best round with a 62 to finish tied for 13th at 10 under, and Canada's Corey Conners produced a pair of 66s on the weekend to sit on the fringe of the top-20 after scraping through right on the cut-line, tied with Will Zalatoris at nine under.

A poor second round from John Huh opened the door at the Wyndham Championship, with Brandon Wu, Kim Joo-hyung and Ryan Moore capitalising to claim a share of the lead at nine under heading into the weekend.

Huh was two strokes clear after his opening round nine-under 61, but he was 10 shots worse on his second trip around Sedgefield Country Club, shooting a one-over 71 to sit one off the lead.

Of the three leaders, Kim had the best round with his 64, posting seven birdies and one bogey, with Moore shooting a 66, and Wu getting around in 67. All three posted top-five putting days according to Data Golf's strokes gained stats, with Kim leading the field (4.61 strokes gained), Moore third (3.31) and Wu fifth (3.06).

One stroke off the lead along with Huh is American Russell Henley and South Korea's Im Sung-jae, with India's Anirban Lahiri part of the next group at seven under.

Japan's Satoshi Kodaira and Australia's Brett Drewitt are in the group tied for 10th at six under, England's Tyrrell Hatton is at five under, and Sweden's Henrik Norlander rode the second-best putting performance of the day to reach the weekend at four under.

Will Zalatoris responded to a poor opening round with a 66 to sneak one stroke inside the cut-line, Adam Scott and Michael Gligic are right on the cut-line at two under, and pre-tournament favourites Shane Lowry and Corey Conners missed out by one stroke.

 

John Huh leads by two strokes after the first round of the Wyndham Championship, shooting a career-low nine-under 61 in his first trip around Sedgefield Country Club on Thursday.

With seven birdies, one eagle and no bogeys in his round, Huh had his game working from all areas. According to Data Golf's strokes gained stats, the American was the second-best in the tee-to-green category (5.29 strokes gained), third in approach shots (3.25) and sixth in putting (3.21).

Speaking to the media after his round, Huh said he did not feel like he was playing his best, but he is glad to be in such a strong position after entering the week on the fringe of the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

"It’s kind of strange," he said, "because I wasn’t really feeling great with my game and I shoot my career low – it’s kind of weird. 

"Sort of mixed feelings, but I’ll take this any day. I was able to take advantage of a good break and good shots, that’s all I can say."

Just days after winning the 3M Open, Tony Finau has put together a terrific eight-under 64 to earn the position of joint-leader at the Rocket Mortgage Classic after the first round of play.

Finau came from five shots back on Sunday to lift this past weekend's trophy, and he kept that momentum going with a bogey-free round, birdieing three holes on the front-nine and five down the back.

He finished with the most strokes gained on approach shots (4.20 strokes gained), and was third in strokes gained off the tee (1.65).

Speaking to the media after stepping off the 18th green, Finau acknowledged his rich run of form, and the fact that it was the first round of his career where he had hit all 18 greens in regulation.

"I was riding the high off last week," he said. "I didn’t know that fact before today, that I haven’t hit all 18 greens, so to be able to do that here today is pretty cool."

The only other player at eight under is Canada's Taylor Pendrith, who had nine birdies, and then bogeyed the 18th hole to give up the outright lead.

That pairing is two strokes clear of the chasing field, with England's Matt Wallace and the American group of Michael Thompson, Webb Simpson, Cameron Champ and Lee Hodges all posting 66s.

There is strong international representation in the logjam tied for eighth at five under, including South Korea's Kim Si-woo, Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat, England's Callum Tarren and Sweden's Henrik Norlander.

Australia's Cam Davis is one further back at four under, his compatriots Adam Scott and Jason Day are at three-under, while England's Danny Willett and strong major performer Will Zalatoris are flirting with the cut-line at two under.

World number one Scottie Scheffler and fellow U.S. Open runner-up Will Zalatoris paid respect to winner Matt Fitzpatrick after a thrilling final round at The Country Club.

Scheffler started his round with four birdies on his first six holes, going on to shoot a 67 and finish five under for the tournament, one behind Fitzpatrick.

Zalatoris also finished at five under, and had a chance to force a playoff by making a birdie putt on the 18th hole, only for it to narrowly miss wide.

It was a remarkable result for England's Fitzpatrick, who became the first player since fellow Englishman Danny Willett in 2016 to mark his first career PGA Tour win with a major victory.

Scheffler told the media after his round that he was happy with his performance, and highlighted the massive improvements he has seen from Fitzpatrick this season.

"My game is still in a good spot," he said. "I gave myself a chance to win the U.S. Open. 

"Performed really well today under a lot of pressure – I made some key putts there in the beginning to kind of get today going. I just played some quality golf. 

"It just so happened the putts [later in the round] were going around the edge instead of in. That's kind of what it felt like was happening most of the week… a few breaks here or there, and I would be the one holding the trophy.

"Tip of the hat to 'Fitzy'. He's been playing really good golf, and he definitely deserved to win this event. I don't know if you guys noticed, but I feel like he has made some extreme improvements off the tee in a matter of months.

"I played with him in Austin this year, and he was not hitting it nearly as far as he is now. I don't know what he was doing. Maybe he was on the Bryson program or something. 

"He's hitting the ball really well and has been knocking on the door for a long time. He definitely deserves this win."

Zalatoris said he thought his playoff-forcing putt was dropping as he watched it travel, and gave respect to Fitzpatrick for what will go down as a legendary bunker save on the 18th hole.

"I did [think my putt was going in] – with about six feet to go, I thought I had it," he said.

"When he pulled it off [out of the bunker] – tip your cap, well done. Now I have to make birdie and hope he misses.

"I painted that shot right over the flagstick and just hit it a little deep. [Fitzpatrick's] golf shot was one-in-20, at best. To pull it off in that situation is incredible.

"He had to cut it around kind of an island of rough in the middle of that bunker. Probably – I don't know how far he had – I'd say roughly around 160, 170 [yards to the pin]. 

"So he's probably hitting a seven or a six-iron and opening it up, carving it off probably left edge of the green. And to get it to be just past pin-high, like I said, the fact he had a look was just awesome.

"When they show the highlights at future U.S. Opens, that's one that's going to be shown, because that was just incredible."

Matt Fitzpatrick called it a dream come true to win his first major after shooting 68 in Sunday's final round to finish on six under, winning the U.S. Open by one stroke from Scottie Scheffler and Will Zalatoris.

The win is the 27-year-old Englishman's first on the PGA Tour, making him the first player to collect his debut victory in a major since Danny Willett won the 2016 Masters.

It also comes at the same course – The Country Club at Brookline – where Fitzpatrick won the 2013 U.S. Amateur.

Speaking to the media after his stunning triumph, he said this was the culmination of a lifetime of work.

"No words, it’s what you grow up dreaming of," he said. "It’s a day I’ve worked so hard for, for such a long time.

"There was a big monkey on my back trying to win over here, all they ever talked about was that, and to do it as a major for my first win – there’s nothing better."

Fitzpatrick gave himself every chance on Sunday by hitting 17-of-18 greens in regulation, and then produced one of the shots of his life on the 18th hole to work his way out of a bunker for the win.

"I’ve got to give myself credit, I stayed patient today," he said. "I said to [caddie] Billy [Foster] that if I could just hit 18 greens today I’d like to think I’d got a good chance – and I near as damn did it. 

"I got a couple of nice breaks there on 15, took advantage of it and that’s what it took in the end.

"Me and Billy spent quite a while talking about the 18th tee shot, undecided. I hit a three-wood today, into the bunker and if there was one shot that I’ve struggled with that I just do not want, it’s a fairway bunker shot. 

"I don’t know, ability just took over and it’s one of the best shots I’ve hit, of all time. When I saw it leave the sand, I couldn’t have been happier."

Back in 2013 when he won the U.S. Amateur, Fitzpatrick stayed with a host family, and he decided to stay with the same family – the Fultons – this time around.

"It’s meant the world, I’ve won twice now here," he said. "I’m trying to get every Tour event around here now and stay at the Fulton’s. 

"So to have them, or to stay with them this week, has made it so much more relaxing, less pressure – I’ve loved every minute."

He finished his trophy presentation ceremony with a message for Jack Nicklaus.

"I don’t know if Jack’s listening to this, but he gave me a bit of abuse at the start of the year," he said.

"I won the member’s member at his club – the Bears Club – and he said ‘finally, congratulations on winning in the States’. 

"So I can go back to him and say 'Jack, I’ve won a second time this year'."

Will Zalatoris and Matthew Fitzpatrick share the lead coming into the final round at the U.S. Open, finishing a tough Saturday on four-under par at Brookline.

Only nine players at this third major of the year have scores under par after 54 holes at the Country Club, and the tied lead between Zalatoris and Fitzpatrick only came after Jon Rahm's dreadful final hole in overcast and blustery conditions.

The world number two had the outright lead coming into his final hole on moving day, but three consecutive bunker shots and a two-putt led to a double-bogey on the par-four 18th and three-under after 54.

Zalatoris and Fitzpatrick have not won as professionals in the United States, with the former agonisingly finishing second at the 2021 Masters and this year's PGA Championship.

With Zalatoris finishing his round earlier in the day, Rahm finished as the conditions further cooled, placing particular difficulty on the approach to the green with club selection.

A visibly frustrated Rahm was able to compensate with some exceptional putting on the back nine, however, sinking a long birdie putt on the 14th to put him level with the two leaders. Three birdies between 14 and 17 were undone by the last hole, however.

Scottie Scheffler recovered from a double-bogey and three consecutive bogeys between 11 and 14 to finish Saturday on two-under, securing a birdie on the 17th before a massive par save on the last after hitting the bunker.

The usually stoic Scheffler did not hide his emotions with a triumphant fist-pump after the save, which left the world number one tied with Adam Hadwin and Keegan Bradley.

Joel Dahmen and Collin Morikawa fell down the leaderboard after opening Saturday with the lead on five-under. Morikawa's natural left-to-right game particularly suffered, shooting a seven-over 77.

Dahmen is joined on one-under by Sam Burns and Rory McIlroy, who only made seven greens in regulation but stayed in contention with a string of saves on the back nine.

 

Shot of the day

After two birdies and a bogey through his first seven holes, Scheffler really shone on the eighth.

His stunning eagle on the par-five hole saw him leap into a two-shot lead at the summit of the leaderboard.

Player of the day - Will Zalatoris

In a day characterised by survival in blustery conditions at Brookline, Will Zalatoris was one of the few on Saturday who thrived.

His ball-striking shone on an overcast day, scoring only one bogey as the rest of the field struggled to find the green.

 

Chipping in

Zalatoris: "Yeah, that was brutal. When I made a mistake, I made sure I was on the fat side of the green or having room where I could maybe at least chip one up there from eight to 10 feet."

Scheffler: "There's a lot of trees on this golf course, and it's gusty as well. So it's definitely unpredictable. I think that's what happens when you get these foresty golf courses, and then with the gusts, I mean, that little golf ball is just getting thrown around all over the place." 

 

A little birdie told me...

- Victory on Sunday would see Fitzpatrick emulate Jack Nicklaus, winning the U.S. Open at the same course he won the U.S. Amateur, after beating Oliver Goss at the Country Club in 2013.

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