Matt Fitzpatrick landed his approach shot on the third playoff hole about a foot away from the pin, and his tap-in birdie allowed him to defeat Jordan Spieth and win the RBC Heritage on Sunday evening in Hilton Head Island, S.C.
Playing the par-4 18th hole at Harbour Town Golf Links for the second time in the playoff, the Englishman lined up his second shot straight at the pin and watched it hop and roll straight at the cup, just shy of a hole-out. Spieth couldn’t get close on his approach and missed a long birdie putt that would have extended the playoff.
It was Fitzpatrick’s first win since his major breakthrough at last year’s U.S. Open and just his second professional win on American soil overall. He will move from No. 16 to No. 8 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Fitzpatrick relished the victory at a tournament he and his family attended during vacations to the United States when he was young.
“Any golf tournament, you know, other than the majors, of course, there isn’t a higher one on my list than to win this one, and that’s the truth,” Fitzpatrick said. “My family can tell you that, and my friends can tell you the same thing. This place is just a special place for me, and it means the world to have won it.”
Spieth had birdie putts to win the playoff on the first two holes — starting at No. 18, then at the par-3 17th — and both missed by the slimmest margins.
“I felt like Jordan played really well today,” Fitzpatrick said. “Didn’t really hit many bad shots, if any. I think in the playoff, I felt every putt he hit was going to go in.”
Spieth was attempting to defend his Heritage title from last year, when he won with a par on the first hole of a playoff with Patrick Cantlay.
“I don’t think I would have done anything differently,” Spieth said. “I got stuck in between clubs twice and hit a really nice one the first time on 18 and I just flew it too far the second time.”
After firing an 8-under 63 on Saturday to take the 54-hole lead, Fitzpatrick closed with a 68 while playing with Spieth and Cantlay in the final threesome. Spieth held the outright lead during the back nine and finished with a 66, joining Fitzpatrick at 17-under 267. Cantlay also threatened before signing for a 68 and finishing one back.
“Someone was going to make a birdie,” Spieth said. “It wasn’t going to be a bogey to lose that playoff the way that we were both playing today. (Fitzpatrick) just did what he needed to do on 15 in, when it had been kind of me and Patrick for a little while there.”
Cantlay and Spieth were tied for the lead at 16 under when they stepped to the tee at the par-4 13th hole. That hole marked a two-shot swing in Spieth’s favor: While Cantlay missed the green and wound up two-putting for bogey, Spieth dialed in his approach to 3 1/2 feet of the cup for an easy birdie.
Both Spieth and Cantlay missed the green at the par-3 14th and faced a difficult chip onto a downhill-sloping green. While Spieth’s rolled to the edge of the green, Cantlay’s dribbled further, coming to rest on a wooden post that barely kept the ball from dropping into water below.
Cantlay managed to chip it from that “lie” onto the green and saved bogey, while Spieth also took bogey.
“I just needed to make sure I was totally committed to what I decided to do there,” Cantlay said. “I wasn’t decided until the end, but ultimately I thought that if I would have dropped it, it would have meant double bogey more than likely, and I wanted to at least give myself a chance to stay in the golf tournament and try and get it up-and-down, which I did.”
Fitzpatrick birdied Nos. 15 and 16, the latter a simple 5-footer, to force a tie with Spieth at 17 under.
“I didn’t do any attacking. I just stuck to my game plan all along,” Fitzpatrick said. “I didn’t change. We were hitting the same targets, same shots as we did all week.”
Cantlay birdied Nos. 15 and 18 to bounce back to 16 under and finish third.
Xander Schauffele (66 on Sunday) finished fourth at 15 under. Sahith Theegala (65) and Hayden Buckley (67) tied for fifth at 14 under, and Brian Harman (67), South Korea’s Sungjae Im (67), Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo (68) and Australia’s Cam Davis (68) finished 13 under in a tie for seventh.
–Field Level Media