Matthew Fitzpatrick, who spent a quarter at Northwestern before leaving to school to pursue professional golf, will be teeing it up in the Ryder Cup. The biannual event, which pits Europe's best golfers against the United States' best, begins Friday at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota.
Here's all you need to know about the former Wildcat's participation at one of golf's most hallowed events.
Each team consists of 12 players, and all 24 players who will compete are ranked in the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking. The United States' team had eight players qualify via a points system while the additional four were selected by team captain Davis Love III. Europe' side consists of nine automatic qualifiers and three captain's picks by Darren Clarke.
Friday and Saturday morning's matches will consist of four "foursomes" matches. Also known as alternate shot, this format pits two-man teams against each other, with players alternating who hits every shot. If one player holes his putt, the next player tees off the following tee, and so on. Each hole is its own miniature match, so to speak, so margin of victory on a specific hole doesn't matter—if a team wins by one or by three, it still counts as one victory.
Friday and Saturday's afternoon matches will feature four "fourball matches." This format also consists of two-man teams, but each player plays his own ball for the entirety of the round. The lowest score from each team on a specific hole will be counted — so if American Player A makes a 4 and American Player B makes a 5, the 4 will be used.
Each captain has the liberty of choosing any eight players for Friday and Saturday's matches; not all 12 have to play. As a 22-year-old Ryder Cup rookie, Fitzpatrick stands a good chance of only appearing in just one or two of these four sessions.
On Sunday, all 12 players from each team face off in "singles" matches. This is old school head-to-head golf; each player plays his own ball. Margin of victory on a specific hole again is irrelevant—the winner is the player who wins most holes, not necessarily the one with the lowest score at the end of the round.
The U.S. is the oddsmakers' favorite (-190, Europe is +150) to take home the Cup, despite the fact that Europe has won three straight Ryder Cups. Some have called this American side one of the strongest golf teams ever assembled, as all 12 members are ranked in the top 31 in the world. Expect the crowd to be a major factor, as is always the case at the Ryder Cup. Forget the golf clap — this is as loud as you'll ever hear a crowd at a golf event.
Fitzpatrick's form, potential pairings
The young Brit, ranked 44th in the world, comes into the Cup on a nice run of form, with four top-20s in his last five events. But Fitzpatrick has had his spells of inconsistencies, having missed 11 cuts on the year. He won his second European Tour event in June at the Nordea Masters and finished in a tie for 7th at the Masters on the strength of a final-round 67.
The course will be set up to accommodate the U.S.'s long hitters (Dustin Johnson, J.B. Holmes, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Kopeka). Expect the course to be "tipped out" (made as long as possible) and the rough to be trimmed, allowing the bombers some margin of error to hit driver and not worry too much about missing fairways. Fitzpatrick, who stands about 5-foot-9, is a terrific iron player and streaky putter, but his strength, when playing well, is consistency, not length. It's not an ideal fit for his game, which is why he might not play in all of the team matches.
In the matches he does play in, look for captain Darren Clarke to pair Fitzpatrick with a Ryder Cup veteran. A popular prediction from the British media has been a pairing with Lee Westwood. Other potential partners are Masters Champion Danny Willett, who is also from Sheffield, England, and Chris Wood, another Brit whom Fitzpatrick is friendly with.
TV Info (all times CT)
Friday: 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the GOLF Channel. Live stream here.
Saturday: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on NBC. Live stream here.
Sunday: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on NBC. Live stream here.