3. Matthew Fitzpatrick (1.348)
The reigning U.S. Open Champion averaged 69.164 strokes in 2021-22, a nifty 1.348 stroke improvement over his 70.512 average of the season before.
Let’s put some ordinal ranks on that improvement. In 2020-21, Fitzpatrick finished 44th in stroke average. This season he was third behind only McIlroy and Cameron Smith.
In a sport where driving and putting are often viewed as the keys to success, Fitzpatrick took the odd way home. His emergence as a Major champion largely involved his improvement with his irons, both approaching the greens and recovering from around those greens.
Here’s the data for Fitzpatrick
2020-21 2021-22 Change
Off The Tee 0.539 0.636 0.097
Approaches 0.026 0.280 0.254
Around the Green 0.055 0.452 0.397
Putting 0.367 0.425 0.058
The striking element here is the substantial improvement Fitzpatrick made around the green. Simply put, almost nobody does that.
During the 2020-21 PGA Tour season, Fitzpatrick ranked a very middlin’ 95th on Tour for his play around the greens. He improved that by nearly four-tenths of a stroke this just-concluded season, climbing all the way up to seventh place in that skill set.
He made a similar improvement amounting to nearly three-tenths of a stroke in his approach play, a skill he put powerfully on display at winning the U.S. Open at The Country Club. Fitzpatrick is still not one of the game’s elite iron players, but he did climb from 102nd last year to 48th this year.
Combine that with more modest but real improvements in his already strong driving and putting games and you account for the bulk of the 1.348 improvement in Fitzpatrick’s stroke average.