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Develop Your Skills from The Sand like Matt Fitzpatrick

By Keith Stewart, PGA
Published on
Matt Fitzpatrick plays a shot from a fairway bunker on the 18th hole during the final round of the 122nd U.S. Open Championship

Matt Fitzpatrick plays a shot from a fairway bunker on the 18th hole during the final round of the 122nd U.S. Open Championship

Matthew Fitzpatrick has played amazing golf all season. Winning on the PGA Tour is no surprise to anyone. Winning the 122nd US Open, well that was going to take something special.
The Country Club played host to a memorable championship. Much like PGA Championship a month ago. A classic course, world class players and the drama will take care of itself.
A month ago, Fitzpatrick was in position to win. He played in the final grouping on Sunday at the PGA. He closed with a 73 and finished tied for fifth. His next start was a stumble as he missed the cut at The Memorial. Another venue perfectly suited to his game. Was the stellar season slipping away?
Fitzpatrick’s key to success in 2022 has been great driving and a solid short game. To earn seven Top 10’s prior to the US Open everyone knew Matt’s time was creeping closer. What would it take to win? He gained back his form with another Top 10 in Canada a week ago and he seemed set for a run at the US Open. After all, he was playing a course where he had very positive memories.
In 2013, Matt Fitzpatrick won the US Amateur at The Country Club. I don’t know if Matt’s a superstitious guy, but he stayed in the same house and the same room as he did during the tournament in 2013. You can’t put a price on that lodging anymore!
Seventy-one holes into the US Open and three men were left. Scottie Scheffler was one back and finished. Will Zalatoris was playing alongside Matt Fitzpatrick and needed a birdie on the last hole while Fitzpatrick needed a par. Zalatoris drove the ball right down the middle of the seventy-second hole, position A. Fitzpatrick on the other hand drove it in the left fairway bunker.
Matt admits being a poor fairway bunker player. When the moment counted most, he hit this shot.
How did he hit such a superb fairway bunker shot under the pressure? I can’t say it was simple, but as a PGA Coach, I will say it was textbook.
There are two important keys to striking the ball solid out of the sand, stability and contact. Matt pulled it off because he followed all the teaching principles I use when giving a fairway bunker lesson.
If you lack a little Fitzpatrick skill from the sand on approach, follow these steps.
  • Evaluate the situation. Look for the lip of the bunker and quickly determine what club has enough loft to get out.
  • Make sure you aim for the fairway or a safe landing spot. That could be on the green, but if you are laying up get it in the fairway.
  • Set your feet in the sand. Dig them in a little below the surface. The sand will make you slip, you can see Matt’s feet are securely planted in the bunker.
  • Your feet are below the surface of the sand. You must grip down on the club to accommodate for being closer to the ball. If not, you will hit the shot behind the ball and probably leave it in the bunker. Take a quick look at Matt’s grip on the club.
  • Only hit the ball. In a greenside bunker, we are trying to hit the sand. Fairway bunkers are just the opposite. Strike down and through that ball before you get to that sand.
Outside of a couple of adjustments, a fairway bunker shot is just like a regular shot. Treat it as such in your mind as well. Technically, if there isn’t a bunker lip in your way, it is easier than an approach from the rough.
Follow these steps and before you know it you’ll be able to show off a little “Fitzmagic” of your own from the fairway bunkers.
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