Matt Fitzpatrick sounded the proud older brother when revealing that Alex, four years his junior, has turned down at least $2million from the Saudis to turn professional on their breakaway circuit.
It is now Matt’s mission to show Alex he has made the right choice and win a prize in which the check is of secondary purpose.
“I’m pleased Alex did say no,” Fitzpatrick said, as he prepared for this week’s USPGA Championship, the second major of the season. “It was a hell of a dilemma for him. He chatted to our parents and then to me. It was a big offer and, to be honest, difficult to refuse.”
Indeed, there has never been an offer quite like it, certainly for a player ranked seventh in the world amateur rankings. Greg Norman, the chief executive of the LIV Golf Invitational series, told the 23-year-old he could play in all eight events this year and the 10 planned for next year, meaning even if he finished last each time he would collect somewhere in the region of $2m [£1.63m].
In reality, he would have collected $4m [£3.26m] just for playing averagely and regardless of what happened next – with possible exclusion from the main Tours and the majors – he would have been set for life.
“It would have been easy to take it,” Matt said. “We don’t come from a background where there was ever money like that. I’m tempting. But he looked at it, where the finance was coming from and what could happen, and decided to stick to the original plan.
“He’ll turn pro when it’s the right time for him and, if his ranking improves just a bit in these next weeks on the college circuit [Alex is in his last year at Wake Forest University in North Carolina]he will go straight to the Korn Ferry Tour [the feeder league to the PGA Tour]. I’m glad about that. It would have been weird if he was on that league, after I’d turned it down.”
Fitzpatrick “was just not interested” when he received his own invite. “I didn’t even play in the Saudi events when they were on the European Tour,” he said. “I’m happy with where the game is and where I am in my profession. You know, you have these ambitions and dreams, if you like. That’s all that inspires me.”
Fitzpatrick is 18th in the world and for the first time is the highest-ranked Englishman. Having finished second eight days ago at the Wells Fargo Championship – making it six top-10s in his last 11 starts – the softly-spoken Yorkshireman has been marked out on Stateside as the next cab on the rank, the player who should soon hold the trophy his talent deserves.
“Yeah, someone texted me the other day about being the top Englishman,” he said. “Does it mean a lot? Well, yeah, if you think about all the great English players. It’s an achievement and another sign of my progression. Now, the Americans are saying I must prove it by winning an event. But there is no panic or urgency on my behalf because I don’t see it quite like that.”
Neither should he. Fitzpatrick is still more than two years short of his 30th birthday and has won seven times on the European circuit, including two victories in the DP World Tour Championship. Furthermore, he already has two Ryder Cup appearances in his locker and has finished second in the Tour’s order of merit. With more than £20m in career earnings – which would have been considered an outrageous sum before the Saudis came along – the former US Amateur champion is a rousing success story by any measure. Except not so much in the States.
“If you haven’t made it there, you haven’t made it anywhere, right?” Fitzpatrick said with a giggle. “We saw it with Tommy [Fleetwood] when talking about him not having won. what did [Paul] Azinger say on TV – he’s only won on that Tours? I find it funny. It’s their little world and we are just living in it. I know that I can win big events. I’ve proved that on the European Tour.”
If our friends across the pond really need a flu with Fitzpatrick then they should look no further than his best record. Southern Hills will be his 25th major as a pro and his only top 10 was in his very first attempt-the 2016 Masters.
“No, I don’t really understand it either,” Fitzpatrick said. “I don’t think it’s nerves or anything. There have been times when I’ve turned up at a course and thought: ‘I have no chance this week.’ And yes, that’s often happened at the [US] PGA when it’s just a bomber’s course. I’m honest with myself and let’s just say that after my first practice round at Southern Hills I’ll know.
“I’ve been told that I can do well there and it’s supposed to be windy. I’m playing well. It’s the next major that I’ve put a ring around on the calendar.”
In 2013 at Brookline, Fitzpatrick became the first Englishman to win the US Amateur in more than a century. It was his own Boston Tee Party and marked him out for great things. His trajectory of him has been appropriately upwards ever since, but for some reason he continues to duck under the radar.
“It’s happening a bit more and although it’s nice people coming up to you in restaurants, there does come a point when you want to say, ‘look, I just want to eat my dinner’,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s a weird one. Of course, I want to win all the big titles, but if I do then I’d have to take everything that comes with it – the fame and all that. I’d love to be in that position, but I do look at Rory [McIlroy] sometimes and think, ‘how does he cope?’
“I’ve been mistaken for Rory loads of times. In Mexico once I was actually in the middle of the tournament and this bloke came running down the fairway shouting: ‘Rory, Rory, please sign this.’ I said, ‘I’m not Rory’, but he just wouldn’t have it. I suppose I’ve really made it when someone mistakes Rory for me. I’m not sure that will ever happen, but I do think I can contend and win majors. That’s what this career is all about isn’t it? There’s no price tag you can put on that.”