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NU at the U.S. Open recap: Three ex-Wildcats battle golf’s toughest test

Fitzpatrick and Wu make it to the weekend, while LACC gets the best of Nyfjäll in first pro start.

123rd U.S. Open Championship - Final Round Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Three former Northwestern golfers — Matt Fitzpatrick, Dylan Wu and David Nyfjäll — competed at the 123rd U.S. Open at The Los Angeles Country Club (LACC) in Southern California.

Fitzpatrick, whose first professional win came last year at the U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, fell short of defending his title. However, the Englishman still played well finishing the tournament tied for 17th at one-under.

While Fitzpatrick did not play as well as he would have liked, the 2022 U.S. Open winner had one of the tournament’s most memorable moments with a second round hole-in-one on the short par-3 15th hole.

Even with struggles off the tee, Fitzpatrick scored consistently throughout the week with rounds of 71-70-68-70. Although the Englishman outdrove the field’s 305-yard average driving distance by almost five yards, he only hit 44% of fairways, well below the field’s average of 65%.

When asked about the course by the media, Fitzpatrick was vocal about his dislike of how LACC plays.

“I just think the golf course is interesting, to be polite,” he said according to Golf Digest. “There’s just too many holes for me where you’ve got blind tee shots and then you’ve got fairways that don’t hold the ball...You hit a good tee shot and end up in the rough by a foot and then you’re hacking it out. Meanwhile someone has hit it miles offline the other way and they’ve got a shot. Yeah, not my cup of tea.”

Finishing 60th in strokes gained off the tee, Fitzpatrick stayed competitive thanks to his excellent short game. The defending U.S. Open champion finished second in strokes gained on short game shots and 15th on strokes gained putting.

Wu, who graduated from Northwestern in 2018, made his second U.S. Open start after clinching his place at LACC by way of the final qualifier at Springfield Country Club in Ohio. The 26-year-old has enjoyed his best season of professional golf, finishing tied for 32nd at LACC after rounds of 68-70-73-72 to finish three-over for the tournament.

Like Fitzpatrick, Wu’s short game was crucial for the ex-Wildcat’s success, with the Oregon native finishing 14th in the field on strokes gained via his short game.

Heading into the weekend, Wu sat in good position at two-under par, but found trouble on the back nine on Saturday and Sunday, scoring bogey or worse a combined eight times during the home stretch of the third and fourth rounds. Like the rest of the field, the back nine challenged Wu, who played the North Course’s second half nine-over on the week.

Nyfjäll, who just graduated from Northwestern, clinched his place at the U.S. Open after surviving a playoff at final qualifying in Columbus, Ohio. In his professional debut, the Swede struggled, posting an opening round 3-over-par 73.

Starting on the back nine on Thursday was tough, as Nyfjäll double bogeyed the 12th and 13th holes early. However, the recent grad-turned-pro responded, birdying four of the remaining 14 holes. But a double bogey on the last gave Nyfjäll work to do Friday to get under the cut line.

After parring the first five holes of the second round, Nyfjäll stumbled, bogeying three of the last four on the front nine. And with the harder back nine in front of him, Nyfjäll could not turn things around, finishing Friday with a 4-over 74, and missing the 2-over cut by five strokes.

Fitzpatrick and Wu will be in action this week at the Travelers Championship alongside former Wildcat David Lipsky at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut.