An avid Sheffield United fan, Matt Fitzpatrick was asked on Sunday evening what he’d buy with the $3 million he’d just banked by winning the DP World Tour Championship.
It was put to him that some of the cash would be best put towards a new striker for his hometown club, who coincidentally as Fitzpatrick was celebrating a one-stroke victory in Dubai and his first title in two years, were were thousands of miles away, losing 3-0 to Southampton.
Given the result meant United remained rooted to the foot of the Premier League, Chris Wilder’s squad could most probably do with some freshening up. Doubtful, though, that that falls upon Fitzpatrick.
“I don't know,” the Englishman said from Jumeirah Golf Estates as the sun set on the season finale. “I'll have to speak to Chris. No, I don't know [what to spend the winnings on]. It's obviously a very nice bonus of the job.”
Patently, thanks to the Tour Championship’s heightened Rolex Series status. But anyway, as nice as the considerable cash injection was, Fitzpatrick was more concerned with adding a sixth European Tour trophy to his cabinet. He has one of these already, having won on the Earth Course in 2016, too.
“I'm more bothered about these,” Fitzpatrick said, raising the newly acquired hardware. “I'll just let it sink in the next few days, and I'll have a think. Maybe I'll buy myself something nice, who knows?”
He certainly deserves a treat. Fitzpatrick began Sunday in the penultimate pairing and part of a three-man group that held a one-shot advantage, together with 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed and Laurie Canter. Reed had entered the week as the Race to Dubai leader. As such, he was aiming to become the first American to win the Order of Merit.
Fitzpatrick started Thursday in 16th, but he flirted with the seasonal crown throughout the final round, a by-product of a “dream start” in which he birdied his opening four holes.
He added another on the seventh to climb to 16-under par and enjoy a two-stroke cushion from the chasing pack, although a lengthy run of pars and a dropped shot on the par-3 17th teed up a tense finish.
However, Fitzpatrick held his nerve to hole a testing putt on the last, signing for a four-under 68 and a 15-under total. Lee Westwood matched his score to come home second and, as a result, grabbed the Race to Dubai title – his third Order of Merit and first since 2009. Reed and Viktor Hovland were one shot back in a tie for third.
Not that he was paying it any heed during Sunday’s play, but the win meant Fitzpatrick finished runner-up in the Race. Second in that didn’t irk him at all.
“I had no idea about the Race to Dubai because I knew that where I started the week at 16, a lot needed to go my way,” he said. “When I saw Lee at second, it did enter my head briefly going to 18: even if I win, it's probably not going to be enough, anyway.
“But all I was bothered about this week was winning. I just wanted to win a lot this week. It's one of those few weeks in your career, where you're like, ‘It feels really good and I'm playing really well’, and you go and win.
“You can play poorly and win and sometimes you can play amazing and lose. To me, this is a week in all honesty I felt I'm playing really well and I managed to convert it.”
By quirk of fate, Fitzpatrick has Westwood’s former caddie, Billy Foster, on the bag, and credits the tour veteran for playing a substantial role in the victory.
Fitzpatrick has come a long way, he conceded, since not long ago, when at the Masters he says his game “was nowhere to be seen”.
“I really set high standards of myself, and I'm honestly very hard on myself; my team will all tell you the same thing,” he said. “But, in all seriousness, to be here at [age] 26, and I don't know what this win has taken me to in the world, potentially my highest career year-end ranking... yeah, I'm very, very happy.”
Fitzpatrick will enjoy checking out the new world rankings on Monday: he is projected to jump six places, to No 16.