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Rory McIlroy impressed by English new boy Fitzpatrick

It is now 18 years since Nick Faldo was the last Englishman to don the Masters champion's green jacket. Tiger Woods was there to witness it as US Amateur champion, and still one year away from his epoch-announcing first major victory at Augusta.

History will be made again today when, for the first time ever, England will have the two winners of the top amateur prizes teeing it up in the elite field of 97. Hats doffed to (British) Amateur champion Garrick Porteous, aged 24, from Mere in Northumberland, and US Amateur champion Matthew Fitzpatrick, aged 19, from Sheffield.

Both have been walking around this hallowed arena with eyes on stalks as the realization has hit them that this world of opportunity is about to be laid at their feet when they join the professional ranks. For Porteous, that journey begins next week when he jets off to Malaysia to make his professional debut.

Fitzpatrick dropped out of college in the US to concentrate on his golf but has pledged to stay among the ranks of the unpaid until after the Walker Cup in 2015. Having sampled the royal treatment he has been afforded this week, his vow of abstinence to the riches golf has to offer has been sorely tested.

They have both been floating around in a dream world. On Monday at the traditional dinner hosted by the club for the amateurs, Porteous found himself sitting next to Condoleezza Rice, the former US Secretary of State.

"It was unbelievable, pretty special," he said. "I was chatting to her about life. Not about politics. I am not into politics – I wasn't going to bring that up. She is lovely," he said.

He is determined to make the most of his week.

"It will be good to go out on a high," he said. I just feel I have done everything in the amateur game. Obviously I could play in the US Open in two months' time – I would love to, don't get me wrong – but I just feel ready to turn pro," he said. "I am just aiming to make the cut. I would love to be low amateur – that is my goal."

Fitzpatrick's week got off to a perfect start by being invited to play a practice round with Rory McIlroy. The Ulsterman was suitably impressed.

"He's not overly long but he's very steady and has a tidy short game," McIlroy said.

"And he doesn't seem to be in awe of the week or the venue. He seems very levelheaded. I just told him to go out and have a ball. There are a lot of young guys coming up through the ranks. He obviously had a great summer winning the US Amateur and the Silver Medal at the Open (for best amateur). Matthew seems to have the game to do well."

Fitzpatrick looks like he's 12 but speaks with maturity beyond his teenage years.

"I can't say I'm looking to feel like I can win," he said with a smile. "My aim is to main the cut. I don't want to get too carried away with everything," he said. "It's just amazing to be here. The course and the place itself are fantastic. There's nowhere in the world like it."

Fitzpatrick named McIlroy and defending champion Adam Scott among his heroes in a list that included his fellow countrymen Lee Westwood, Justin Rose and Ian Poulter. Woods was noticeably absent – the World No.1 is an old geezer to this new generation of kids.

Belfast Telegraph


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