PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Reigning U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick said Wednesday he has been dealing with a neck injury that has prevented him from being fully healthy as he prepares to compete in three straight PGA Tour events, beginning with this week’s Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
“I hurt my neck last Saturday. So it’s still not 100 percent,” Fitzpatrick said. “I can still play, but I’ve not got like full speed or anything like that.”
With upcoming designated events at the Waste Management Open in Phoenix and the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club, Fitzpatrick said he’s treating this week’s event at Pebble Beach as a “warm-up” to see where his game is at.
“I’ve had it on and off throughout the years,” the 28-year-old Fitzpatrick said of the neck injury, which he described as a “stiffness” on the right side. “But I’m not exactly sure how I’ve done it. Just going through the ball is just a little bit more difficult than normal.”
Last year, Fitzpatrick rose up the ranks and won the U.S. Open, thanks in part to a well-chronicled and concerted effort to add speed to his driver. The 28-year-old was top-10 in strokes gained off the tee last season.
Because of his status as one of the top-20 players in the Player Impact Program (PIP), Fitzpatrick is required to play in all but one of the tour’s 17 designated events this season, which include the four majors and have augmented prize purses of around $20 million.
“I think the big thing that has been talked about a lot with the players is we kind of want to play less,” Fitzpatrick said. “I do think there’s too much golf, regardless of what level you’re at. Having 53 tournaments in a 52-a-year cycle is ridiculous. It’s too much golf.
“I just think people probably need a break from it. They could watch golf every week from January to December. I think that’s why I think having less, but getting the best players together more, is obviously the way to go.”
The addition of the tour’s designated events is part of a revamped schedule in the face of LIV Golf poaching players from the PGA Tour. Another aspect of the evolution in golf’s landscape is the “strategic alliance” between the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour, which was strengthened last year and resulted in co-sanctioning a handful of European events and 10 tour cards for the top DP World Tour players each season.
On the notion that the DP World Tour is now a feeder tour for the PGA, Fitzgerald acknowledged that has been the case for the past decade or so given the influx of money the tour has had. He said more needs to be done to justify the alliance. This season, there are no designated events outside of U.S. soil, something Fitzpatrick said Wednesday he’d like to see.
“I do think the strategic alliance is good,” Fitzpatrick said. “But at the same time, I feel like there probably needs to be a little bit more done from the PGA Tour to Europe. I think it’s probably a little bit one-sided. We like to say, like ‘growing the game’ … I think it would be really good to kind of take events over there rather than kind of just being like, ‘Oh, well, the European Tour does that, so we don’t need to bother.'”