|Dates: June 16-19 Venue: Brookline Country Club, Massachusetts|
|Coverage: Live radio and text commentary across all four days on BBC Sport website and Radio 5 Sports Extra|
As soon as it was announced that the 2022 US Open would be played at The Country Club at Brookline the date was circled in Matt Fitzpatrick’s diary.
The 27-year-old from Sheffield arrives in Boston seeking his first major title and happily he is in the form of his professional life.
He had an impressive first round on his way to a top-10 finish at last week’s Canadian Open, which returned after a two-year absence and saw Rory McIlroy successfully defend the title he won in 2019.
In his most recent major appearance, at last month’s US PGA Championship, Fitzpatrick was in the final pairing on the last day for the first time in his career. An untidy closing 73 meant he missed the play-off, which was won by Justin Thomas.
But that week at Southern Hills finally confirmed that he is now ready to compete for the game’s biggest prizes, nine years on from landing one of the most prestigious titles in the unpaid ranks of the game.
And this why Brookline is so special for the South Yorkshireman. It was there that he won the US Amateur by beating American Oliver Goss 4&3 in the final.
With that win he became only the second Englishman after Harold Hilton, 102 years earlier, to land the venerable trophy.
Fitzpatrick still loves the place and now cannot wait to pit his ever improving professional skills against the par-70 7,254-yard layout this week.
“As soon as I knew it was going to be there it was always on my radar,” he told BBC Sport.
“I’ve had success there before, I love being there, I love playing there and it is right up there for me, but I’m not going to go there and put extra pressure on myself.
“I just [have] that little bit of extra confidence, knowing that I’ve succeeded there before.”
Fitzpatrick remains a relatively slight figure by the standards of professional gaming. But he has added distance off the tee, averaging 296 yards, to a repertoire that he was already known for – his approach play and efficiency on and around greens.
The fact that he will be competing for one of the most prestigious trophies in golf and all that goes with becoming a major champion will not be lost on Fitzpatrick this week.
But that was not the case on his last visit to Brookline in 2013. “I didn’t really know what came with winning the US Amateur,” he admitted.
“I just didn’t understand how big a deal it was. I look back and I didn’t know that the two finalists would get invited to Augusta (for the Masters), I didn’t really know the winner got US Open, Augusta and The Open.
“It was just all a bit of a whirlwind the whole week. I was basically being so stupid really. Ignorance was bliss, it was just a big help in succeeding.”
The experiences and memories of that week are impacting on how the seven times European Tour winner is approaching what is the 29th major of his career.
“We had a hotel up until the quarter-final,” Fitzpatrick recalled. “My dad didn’t think I’d get further than that, so we checked out of that and then I won again.
“And for the semi-final and final we ended up staying with a family in Boston and we’ve become really good friends ever since so I’m going to go and stay with them.
“There’ll be me and my parents and them and their kids as well, so it’ll be just like old times.
“I’ve stayed at the house a few times since winning the US Amateur so it’s a comfortable place to be and I think that’s quite a nice little thing to know where your going.
“You’ve been there before, you know what the deal is and it’s just much nicer than some unknown hotel when you’re on your own. Sometimes I like that, some weeks I don’t, but particularly this week I think it’s quite nice.”
Fitzpatrick also believes his experience at Southern Hills last month will stand him in good stead for this week’s tilt at major glory.
“It was a great week in the end, regardless of the outcome,” he said.
“To have that experience in the final group was the first time for me. I felt like I came away from the week disappointed not to have got it done.”
A final level-par round would have given him the Wanamaker Trophy after a brilliant 67 on the Saturday secured his berth in the final pairing with Chile’s Mito Pereira.
“I think Saturday was one of my best days on a golf course in a long time,” Fitzpatrick stated.
“I got off to such a poor start and to battle back and shoot what I did, birdieing the last, I was just really proud with the way my attitude was and the way I played.
“I just stayed patient the whole day and that was a big takeaway as well. I felt like I did it when I needed to. That was a big thing.”
Those are precisely the qualities required to win the US Open. He is bidding to become the first Briton to win America’s national championship since Justin Rose in 2013.
It is a year that obviously resonates with Fitzpatrick and his experiences then might just have a bearing on his chances of winning the third men’s major of the 2022 season.