Family affair

British Open 2023: The 'polar opposite' Fitzpatricks join list of brothers to play in oldest major

July 17, 2023

Matt and Alex Fitzpatrick, shown playing in the 2023 Zurich Classic, will compete together for the first time in the Open Championship.

Jason Allen/ISI Photos

HOYLAKE, England — It has happened before, but not since 1985 when Manuel Ballesteros joined his wee brother, Seve, in the Open Championship field at Royal St. George’s alongside another pair of siblings, Tateo and Naomichi Ozaki from Japan. So the sight of Matt and Alex Fitzpatrick and Rasmus and Nicolai Hojgaard in the starting lineup this week is unusual rather than unique.

Nor is the appearance of any brothers in golf’s oldest major really that surprising. It has happened quite often over the years. In a still-to-be-equaled familial highlight, Harry and Tom Vardon finished first and second at Prestwick in 1903. Into the 1930s, the three Whitcombe brothers—Charles, Ernest and Reg—made multiple starts alongside each other.

Three decades or so later, former Ryder Cup captain Bernard Hunt played in seven Opens when his younger brother, Geoff, was also in the field. And the Ozakis equaled the feat of the Whitcombes when Jumbo joined his two siblings at Royal Troon in 1989.

More recently, things have quieted down on the brother front. But the Saltmans, Lloyd and Elliott, played in 2009 at Turnberry. And the Molinaris, Edoardo and Francesco, were both in the field for three Opens between 2010 and 2015.

Still, even if history isn’t getting too excited by their presence at Royal Liverpool this week, for the Fitzpatricks this is going to be a special occasion. Such is his enthusiasm at his brother’s presence, only in his victory press conference at last year’s U.S. Open has Matt been comparably animated.


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“I was so happy when he qualified,” said the World No. 9, who is ranked 552 places higher than his brother. “I was buzzing. I was playing golf at the time and was refreshing the scores on my phone constantly. It was taking a while to update. My girlfriend was literally, like, ‘put it down, it’ll load in a minute.’ But I was constantly refreshing, texting my mom, ‘what's he doing, where is he hitting it?’ I was so happy for him.”

Since that day there has been, as you might expect, some advice floating between the two, who are sharing a local house with their parents this week.

“Alex came last week to play 18, which I think was helpful,” continued the elder Fitzpatrick, 28. “See the golf course, no stress, no rush. Then I told him to take things easy over the next few days.

“I remember speaking to my coach, Mike [Walker], about what to do at my first Open back in 2013. He stressed not tiring myself out. So I played nine Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I think that is kind of similar to what Alex should do. Then the other thing is no media, so he can concentrate on himself and stay away from you lot [laughter].”

There is, however, no guarantee that the younger sibling will pay a blind bit of notice to anything the elder has to say. Not only has Alex, 24, had more recent competitive experience over the Hoylake links than his brother (he was a member of the 2019 Great Britain & Ireland side that lost to the Americans here), the pair are very different people.

“On paper my strengths are driving and putting,” Matt said. “And his strengths are short game and approach play. Then off the golf course, we are just literally polar opposites. I'm like a control freak, OCD, organized. And he's not.”

All of which is not to say the pair don’t get along. And Matt clearly understands the annoying aspect of being the younger brother of a famous golfer.

“I remember when I first got on tour, Alex was still at my golf club, Hallamshire, and members would come up to him all the time,” Matt recalled. “It was, ‘How’s Matt doing? Where's Matt?’ Not, ‘How are you doing? How's your game?’ It was always asking about me. Well, I completely understand how that feels. Now it's the other way round. Literally, the majority of questions I’m asked are about Alex.

“I'm sure for him growing up it was probably very annoying. It's hard for him to have his own identity and have his own game. Plus, he’s just learning. It's all new to him. This is obviously his first major. And he’s in his first full season on tour if you like. I definitely empathize with him, but he’s handling it pretty well so far.”

There was time too for one last smile. How was it being back in the same house together?

“It's fine,” Matt said. “He's fine. Fortunately, my parents are there to take care of him."

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​​Is it the British Open or the Open Championship? The name of the final men’s major of the golf season is a subject of continued discussion. The event’s official name, as explained in this op-ed by former R&A chairman Ian Pattinson, is the Open Championship. But since many United States golf fans continue to refer to it as the British Open, and search news around the event accordingly, Golf Digest continues to utilize both names in its coverage.

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