US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick to snub BBC Spoty – because golfers do not win

US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick to snub BBC Spoty – because golfers do not win

Matt Fitzpatrick has turned down the chance to attend next month’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards ceremony regardless of whether he is a shortlisted nominee for his US Open victory.

There is a very good reason for that. If Rory McIlroy has never lifted the Spoty crown – most notably in 2014 when he won back-to-back majors – then what chance would Fitzpatrick have? The fact that he is 150-1 probably answers that question and helps explain why his management confirmed to Telegraph Sports that he politely declined when the organizers came calling recently.

A golfer has not been crowned Sports Personality of the Year since Nick Faldo in 1989 after his first Masters victory. That came 32 years after Welshman Dai Rees won the award for captaining Great Britain to their first Ryder Cup success in 24 years. Justin Rose was nominated for the award after winning the 2013 US Open, but finished ninth out of the 10 nominees and the recent cut to six nominations could jeopardize Fitzpatrick’s chances of being included.

Fitzpatrick is used to being overlooked, even after his sensational breakthrough at Brookline in June. Following his opening 65 in the DP World Tour Championship on Thursday he was asked if he had noticed the paucity of his picture adorning the promos dotted around the Earth Course at this season-ender for the circuit formerly known as the European Tour?

Of course Rory McIlroy takes central stage here in the marketing stakes, but surely Fitzpatrick, as the world No 9 and a two-time past champion, should be next in the billing, alongside world No 5 Jon Rahm.

But, no, apart from a blink-and-you will-miss-it poster at the exit, the images of the likes of Viktor Hovland (world No 11), Shane Lowry (20) Tommy Fleetwood (23), Tyrrell Hatton and Danny Willett (91) has greater prominence.

“It’s funny you should mention that….” Fitzpatrick replied with a wide smile. “What can I say? It’s a recurring theme. Not that it bothers me. Perhaps if I win for a third time…”

If the 28-year from Yorkshire does complete his hat-trick here on Sunday – and the fact he birdied the first five on his way to sharing the lead with Hatton on seven-under suggests he is bang in form – then so long as McIlroy (72) does not finish runner up he will win the order of the merit for the first time.

And having been made a lifetime honorary life member of his home Tour earlier this week this would cement Fitzpatrick’s status as a European big-hitter, no matter what the publicists or BBC voters might believe.

“That Harry Vardon Trophy has some spectacular names on it and having coming so close in 2020 [when pipped by Lee Westwood] it would mean a lot and would cap off what has obviously been the best year of my career so far – especially as I’ll have had to leapfrog Rory, the best player in the world,” he said.

“If this did, say, come down to me and Rory, head-to-head down the stretch, I would not be intimidated. In fact, I would welcome it. Going up against the world No 1 on Sunday is exactly what I would love to do.”

It has not always been like that. Fitzpatrick, with his charming sense of self-deprecation, likes to tell a story about being mistaken for McIlroy.

“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’,” Fitzpatrick said. “I said ‘I’m not Rory’, but he just wouldn’t have it. I guess I’ve really made it when someone mistakes Rory for me!”

In truth, he is out of the Northern Irishman’s shadow now and this would simply be the latest proving ground for a player consistently under-rated since he won the US Amateur as a teenager. Fitzpatrick is not the type to not crave the posters, the awards or the hero-worship and, as an unassuming character would likely be more comfortable under the radar. But as he says, it would be nice to have the validation that the circus brings.

“It’s a weird one. Of course, I want to win all the big titles, but if I do then I’ll have to take everything that comes with it – the fame and all that,” he told me earlier this year. “I’d love to be in that position, but I do look at Rory sometimes and think, ‘how does he cope?’”

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