Fitzpatrick's escape acts have him tied with Scheffler for lead at BMW Championship
Watch any PGA Tour event and there are always a few shots that leave fans with mouths agape.
"How did he pull that off? Incredible!"
Well, Saturday at Olympia Fields it was Englishman Matt Fitzpatrick who produced a pair of jaw-dropping escape acts en route to a 4-under 66 that left him tied for the lead with Scottie Scheffler after the third round of the BMW Championship.
Fitzpatrick's first bit of magic came on the third hole after his second shot sailed way offline and to the left of the severely elevated green. Fitzpatrick took his time, walking well past the flag to survey the scene. His caddie then drew an imaginary circle in the rough just short of the green, painting a picture of where the ball should land.
Sure enough, it did, and the ball hopped twice and rolled 11 feet shy of the cup.
And, yes, Fitzpatrick buried the par putt.
"(Give him) a bucket of balls (and) that's 1 out of 15 he gets that ball up and down," said playing partner Brian Harman, who shot 67 and is 1 off the lead. "He did have a little bit of green to work with, but I certainly wouldn't try to qualify that any differently than an incredible up and down."
It was a key moment for Fitzpatrick, who birdied only one of the next nine holes.
"If you (can't) make the putts for par ... it kills any sort of round momentum," Fitzpatrick said.
After birdies on 13 and 14, Fitzpatrick bellowed, "fore left!" when he saw his second shot on the 609-yard par-5 15th hole sailing toward a hospitality tent.
With his left foot up against a massive tree, Fitzpatrick dazzled the crowd by punching his third shot between a short tree and the hospitality tent. The ball cleared a greenside bunker and settled to 3½ feet.
He took sole possession of the lead when the birdie putt fell.
"The lie was actually pretty good where it was," Fitzpatrick said. "(I) would have had to hook a lob wedge to get it, but managed to get a drop right of the tree that gave me just enough angle to get it to the pin."
Fitzpatrick dropped a shot with a bogey on the par-4 18th. After driving into a fairway bunker, his second shot went just 126 yards into the left rough. A bit of controversy ensued as Fitzpatrick believed a marshal "semi-stood" on the ball, altering the lie.
No free drop was given, however, and Fitzpatrick's third shot ended up short of the green.
"(He) didn't fully stand on it, but definitely brushed it because you could see the grass was completely moved," Fitzpatrick said. "It definitely sat further down than when I got there. They didn't see it, and they can't confirm that, so I wasn't going to fight for it."
Fitzpatrick has a small local tie in that he played five tournaments for Northwestern in 2013 before going pro at just 19 years old. His first collegiate tournament was actually at Olympia Fields, although it doesn't especially hold any fond memories for him.
"I think I shot 80," he said. "I finished like 60th last time -- and I'm playing all right this time."
Fitzpatrick came into the BMW in 40th place in the Fed Ex Cup standings. Now he's all but guaranteed himself a trip to the Tour Championship with a chance to claim the season-ending $18 million first prize. The top 30 after Sunday's final round advance.
Fitzpatrick finished in a tie for 10th at the Masters in April and then won the RBC Heritage, but he's managed just one top-10 finish since. He missed two cuts and tied for 66th in the 70-man FedEx St. Jude Championship last week.
Funny how much of a difference one tournament -- or even a couple magical shots -- can make.
"I got a lot more out of my irons in two weeks at Augusta and Harbour Town," Fitzpatrick said. "They just felt so much better than they had been probably since the (2022) U.S. Open. I felt I could really kick on then.
"Then just gradually started driving it worse really. That's a strength of mine, so just not been comfortable with that for the last three months, and I feel like we've done a really good job of fixing that over the last couple weeks. ...
"I've had plenty of top 10s and stuff but never really been in the final group or only a couple back. It's always four or five back -- just enough to not really make a difference.
"That's kind of where my next step feels like to be looking at Jon Rahm and Scottie and Rory (McIlroy). They're always up there week in and week out."