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Matt Fitzpatrick and the compelling case for the underdog

Updated: Apr 19, 2023

I love golf. I love the game, the drama, the tradition, and the things about it that transcend sport and go into the realm of the metaphysical.

To understand that statement, just buy the incredible book “The Legend of Bagger Vance” to understand how golf can touch conversations usually reserved for yogis, people obsessed with plant-based medicine and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Golf also constantly reminds me about the burden of leadership, the tough questions we all need to answer and be answerable to and the pure drama of striving to be excellent.

Last year, I wrote about Matt Fitzpatrick’s inspirational US Open victory. The article was about underdogs, but it was actually about his caddy Billy Foster. And how the journeyman bag carrier, after 30 years of almost, finally got a big title. The incredible maturity and grace showed by Fitzpatrick in his moment of victory towards his bagman was echoed by Messi celebrating with Martinez in the World Cup quarterfinals, Seve Ballesteros going from hero to inspirational struggler in the 95 Ryder Cup, and countless other stories of sportsmen who transcended the moment to truly capture our hearts.

After watching the Netflix documentary (it’s pretty good, btw) on the 2022 PGA tour and the well-documented rift in the game because of Saudi-backed LIV golf, I was reminded of another few critical aspects of Fitzpatrick’s maiden victory in the US, and his first major:

  1. The episode dealing with Fitzpatrick’s journey to glory goes heavy on the differences between him and former world no 1 Dustin Johnson. Johnson is a tall, imposing, swaggering multiple major winner from the US. He looks like an athlete. Fitzpatrick is a lot shorter and looks… well, not like an athlete. The point made is Fitzpatrick works harder than anyone in the game, and work ethic ultimately trumps natural athleticism.

  2. And it’s not just the physical aspect. The statistical prep, the analytical fervour… He does the research, the prework, he gets the DATA. There is a clip showing decades of post-game analysis, and the way Fitzpatrick eked out all the small games by going back to what wasn’t working and making it better.

  3. Fitzpatrick was in a winning position just a month earlier in another major, the US PGA. He crashed and burned in the final round. But, like other great champions, he dusted himself off, got back to work, learned from the experience and showed up in every way possible at the US Open. There was a moment halfway through the final round where it looked like the wheels might be coming off – but then he just pulled himself together and got it done. FAILURE helps prepare us for SUCCESS.

Golf has an iron grip on some of us. Hitting that sweet spot, playing the perfect shot, the perfect hole, watching a putt drift towards the hole and disappear… it is truly zen. I am so glad that it keeps on delivering compelling examples of how good life could be if we just showed up and did the work, both before and during the game… and didn’t allow setbacks to ruin our round.

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