Matthew Fitzpatrick is thrilled to be back in Dubai on the eve of his DP World Tour Championship title defence, which begins at Jumeirah Golf Estates on Thursday as the Race to Dubai reaches its conclusion at the European Tour’s season-ending grand finale.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” said the Englishman. “It’s nice to be back and it’s going to be the first time trying to defend a title on the same golf course so I’m really looking forward to the week. This is a place I’ve done well even before my win here last year – I finished fourth in 2015 – so I love the course and all being well I’ll have a similar sort of result and end the year on a high.”
The 23-year-old endured a rocky summer but is heading into this week’s season-ending event in fine form having picked up his fourth European Tour title at the Omega European Masters in September before going on a consistent run that has seen him finish in the top 15 in each of his six events since the victory in Switzerland.
“I sat down with my team and had a discussion about what was going on in my game and figured out that I needed to drive it better and that’s made a massive difference,” said Fitzpatrick.
“It’s been great to be able to play better and become more consistent over the last eight or nine weeks and hopefully I can take that into the DP World Tour Championship this week.”
Fitzpatrick claimed the biggest title of his career in dramatic fashion in Dubai last year. Trailing leader Tyrrell Hatton by one stroke as he made his way to the 18th tee, the door opened when he learned that his fellow Englishman, playing in the group ahead, had found the water with his drive up the last.
After a solid tee shot, Fitzpatrick found the bunker with his approach to the final green but splashed out to four feet before rolling in a nerve shredding four-foot birdie putt to claim the €1,217,174 winner’s cheque.
“I was a little bit nervous on the drive and it certainly wasn’t easy but my bunker shot wasn’t too bad,” reflected the Ryder Cup star. “The putt was the worst one, I could see my hands physically shaking when I was taking the putter back so it was nice to hole it and a great way to win the tournament.”
In what has been a relatively short career, Fitzpatrick has already enjoyed some unforgettable victories – his 2013 US Amateur triumph and winning his maiden European Tour title on home soil at the British Masters are definite highlights. But the former Amateur World No. 1 is in no doubt that his 2016 DP World Tour Championship victory stands out above all the rest.
“It certainly tops the lot,” he said. “The US Amateur is also up there for me, it always will be one of my favourite wins, but to claim DP World Tour Championship in the way that I did, and the field I was up against, was very special and something I will never forget.”
Fitzpatrick tees off alongside Bernd Wiesberger at 11.50am on Thursday.