x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 25 November 2017

DP World Tour Championship: Globetrotter Matthew Fitzpatrick ready to defend title

Englishman's hectic season continues in Dubai this week following which he plays at Hong Kong Open before relocating from UK to US

Matthew Fitzpatrick arrives at the DP World Tour Championship as the defending champion. Warren Little / Getty Images
Matthew Fitzpatrick arrives at the DP World Tour Championship as the defending champion. Warren Little / Getty Images

By all accounts, Matthew Fitzpatrick has had a pretty hectic past 12 months.

He has played 26 events, with another two still to come, including this week’s DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, a tournament at which he is defending champion. It represents the season finale on the European Tour.

However, the clubs are not going away just yet. Straight after Dubai, Fitzpatrick will hotfoot it to the Hong Kong Open, the official opener to the tour’s wraparound “2018” campaign.

Following that, he has the not-so-small matter of moving out, finally, from his parents’ home in Sheffield, England and relocating to Florida in the United States.

All things considered, that probably ranks as the most stressful part of the big conclusion to 2017. Or maybe not.

“It’s a rental down in West Palm Beach, pretty much all sorted,” says Fitzpatrick sitting inside Dubai Mall's Under Armour store, the performance apparel company he serves as brand ambassador. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s something different.

"I guess it just feels like a bit of a bigger hotel room in a way. I’m used to living out of a suitcase so I know I won’t be there for that long. I don’t think golfers can really call their home “home” anyway. But I can’t complain.”

Given what has gone before, Fitzpatrick certainly cannot.

His win at September's Omega European Masters provided a fourth European Tour victory at age 23, sparking a run where his worst finish in six events is tied-15th.

He has a Ryder Cup appearance under his belt already, part of the European team defeated at Hazeltine last year. He is viewed by many, alongside Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton, as the future of English golf, and with some justification, too.

Along with Matthew Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood, above, is one of England's most promising golfers. Warren Little / Getty Images
Along with Matthew Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood, above, is one of England's most promising golfers. Warren Little / Getty Images

But the not-too-distant past has not been bad either. Less than 12 months have passed since Fitzpatrick triumphed at the DP World, when he pegged back Hatton right at the death on Sunday to seal a one-shot win.

He returns this week having flown out early on Monday from the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa, where he finished a hugely respectable tied-eighth. The journey allowed a few reminiscences to register.

“A little bit, yeah,” Fitzpatrick says. “You sort of get that when you land in Dubai. Obviously I came back earlier this year for the Desert Classic, so you’re thinking of it then. But to go and play the course again this week, it’s going to be special.”

Last year was definitely that. It was even more so given Fitzpatrick’s parents were at Jumeirah Golf Estates to witness it firsthand. They joined their son for the trophy ceremony on the 18th green. In fact, they have made a habit of that.

“They travel when they can,” Fitzpatrick says. “They tend to only pick the nice ones, like Dubai. Went to Italy this year, were in Switzerland last year. They’ve been at three of my four wins so I’ve been really lucky.

“I wouldn’t know many other golfers who’ve had that, other than Lee Westwood, because he’s won about five million times.”

With the Dubai title, Fitzpatrick won €1.2 million (Dh5.1m), the biggest payday in his short but lucrative career thus far.

It is not for that reason he describes the DP World as “definitely” his best victory, but rather for the field he was competing against and the fortitude displayed in sinking a slippery four-foot putt on the last hole.

“Incredibly fast,” he says now. “It was the first putt I’ve ever had where I could physically see my hand shaking on the way back. If I had've missed, it would’ve been one to really look back on and regret, but nice to watch it go in."

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Looking forward, Fitzpatrick is hoping to successfully defend his crown this week. Considering Europe’s top 60 golfers this season will descend on the Earth course, he knows that is far from guaranteed.

“At the end of the day you’re not expected to win, that’s just the way it is," he says. "It would be nice if I did it again and if I do that’s great.

“To me, this week’s got a little bit of extra special value because I did win last year. You get to see where you were, you can feel it around you, but at the same time it’s a new tournament and you’re starting from scratch. It’s not like you still hold the lead from last year, unfortunately.”

He has crammed in a lot since. He plans to pack in a little more yet.

“It’s been a good 12 months, I’d say,” Fitzpatrick adds. “I had a poor summer, which I was really disappointed about, but at the same time a half-decent start and I’ve finished pretty well now.

"So hopefully just close it out for the 2017 season and then get off to a good start next week for the 2018 season. And then move into the house. Yeah, it should be pretty busy.”