Fitzpatrick impresses at The Players after discovering driver blunder

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Fitzpatrick impresses at The Players after discovering driver blunder

Matt Fitzpatrick remains in the hunt to become the first English winner of The Players, having discovered a mistake in his equipment that can potentially explain his slow start to the PGA Tour season.

Fitzpatrick – without a top-10 finish on the PGA Tour this season – stayed in touch with clubhouse leader Wyndham Clark after following an opening-round 66 with a three-under 69 on Friday at TPC Sawgrass.

The world No 11 briefly moved into the solo lead following four birdies in a six-hole stretch around the turn but double-bogeyed the par-four fourth after finding water off the tee, before a final-hole birdie moved him into the weekend on nine under.

Matt Fitzpatrick, of England, putts on the 12th hole during the second round of The Players Championship golf tournament Friday, March 15, 2024, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Image: Matt Fitzpatrick is five shots behind Wyndham Clark, who moved 14 under with back-to-back 65s

“Felt like I did everything well,” Fitzpatrick said. “Just felt like I played solid overall. Made a couple putts when I needed to, drove the ball well, and my approach play was good, as well. So yeah, just felt solid overall really.”

Fitzpatrick’s performance comes just weeks after changes to his driver, having noticed a four-gram weight had mistakenly been left in it for nearly a year, with the Englishman feeling far more comfortable off the tee than earlier in the season.

“First week [since the change] it was great,” Fitzpatrick said. “Since then I drove it poorly at Bay Hill and poorly at LA [Genesis Invitational]. I’ve probably had five weeks of it and it’s been a mixed bag, but from a feeling standpoint it’s felt better.”

Explained: Why was Fitzpatrick’s driver oversight?

The 2022 US Open champion underwent some swing testing during the early part of last year, where he added a four-gram weight into the grips of the irons before following the same method with the driver a few weeks later.

Matt Fitzpatrick, of England, watches his tee shot on the 13th hole during the second round of The Players Championship golf tournament Friday, March 15, 2024, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Image: Matt Fitzpatrick is looking for a first top-10 finish of the season on the PGA Tour

Fitzpatrick removed the weights from his irons soon after testing but mistakenly left them in the driver, with the error only coming to light during further driver testing – nearly a year later – ahead of the WM Phoenix Open in February.

“We thought, ‘okay, well, let’s match it up with the driver’, because I felt there was a bit of an indifference there,” Fitzpatrick explained earlier in the tournament. “We did, and then for whatever reason just forgot that it was ever in there!”

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On what caused Fitzpatrick to realise: “I needed a re-grip of the driver. The grip was so worn, it was like a training grip. He [grip fitter] put a little bit too much tape on, so it just bulked up the length, so it was too long. I took it to Titleist, they regripped it for me and they’re like, ‘oh, you know there’s a weight in there’, and I almost had a heart attack!”

Fitzpatrick won on the RBC Heritage on the PGA Tour and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on the DP World Tour during that period, although suffered inconsistent results since the equipment tweaking.

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Matt Fitzpatrick and his mum Susan won the group Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

“My driving got worse from pretty much after Harbour Town, and we were going back and forth,” Fitzpatrick added. “We were just very confused swing-wise, did all sorts.

“Turns out, take the weight out of the top of the driver, and I think since Phoenix is when I’ve taken it out, I’ve driven it a lot better. Maybe I’d have won four times if I had it out!”

The extra weight lead to Fitzpatrick’s tee shots going left more frequently, a stark contrast to his usual driver accuracy, with the 29-year-old noticing the distance immediately after removing the weight.

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Matt Fitzpatrick eagled the par-five 16th hole at TPC Sawgrass after an in-depth chat with caddie Billy Foster ahead of hitting his shot to a few feet.

“100 per cent,” Fitzpatrick explained. “As soon as I came out and hit the next day, it felt night and day. I could hit it as hard as I want and it wouldn’t go left. Previously, I felt like I hit it hard and it would just go straight left.”

“Drove it [Thursday] like I feel like I can drive it. To me it felt a bit more like my old self, drove the ball well, putted well, and that’s kind of always been the key to when I’ve played well really.”

Watch the PGA Tour throughout the season live on Sky Sports. Live coverage from The Players continues throughout the weekend on Sky Sports Golf. Stream the PGA Tour and more with NOW.

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