There was no contest when it came to debating who the family of Matt and Alex Fitzpatrick should follow on Saturday at The Open.
Their mother and father, Russell and Susan, were told by their more famous son, Matt, to walk Royal Liverpool with his sibling and it proved the soundest of calls.
Alex, the 24 year-old world No 561, was to play the round of his life to put himself in exalted company, hitting seven birdies in a 65 that left him at four under par.
By doing so he outshone former US Open champion Matt, although he hardly disgraced himself with a 67 playing alongside last year’s Open winner Cam Smith, leaving him at two under.
‘I told them to go focus on Alex, that’s more important,’ said Matt of his spoiled-for-choice parents. ‘This is my ninth Open, so they’ve seen all nine of those and this is his first. I saw his name pop up on the leaderboard, which was nice to see.’
Alex Fitzpatrick hit seven birdies in a 65 that left him four under par at Hoylake
World No 561 Alex is outshining his famous brother Matt, left, who is at his ninth Open
Former US Open champion Matt hit 67 at two under – the same as last year’s winner Cam Smith
Alex plies his trade on the Challenge Tour and his main career priority is to escape the low profile grind of that level.
His last win was an American college event, so his ambitions today are limited, even though he will tee off well in touch with the leaders.
‘Winning the Claret Jug would obviously be a dream, it hasn’t even crossed my mind to be honest, but there’s a million top players who are still ahead of me,’ he said, somewhat exaggerating.
‘I’ve gained a lot of knowledge through my brother for the past couple of years and I feel like that seeps into my game slowly — maybe a little too slowly at times.’
Fitzpatrick Jnr. has been renting a house with his family and the party has also included his girlfriend, the world’s No 5-ranked amateur Rachel Kuehn, who is preparing for her own Major, next week’s Evian Championships.
That has been helping relax him: ‘Caldy Golf Club [nearby to Hoylake] were nice enough to let her practise there and I’ve just been dropping her off and watching her practise and chilling out,’ he said, adding that he is more competitive with her than he is with his sibling.
He could only remember beating him once in an official tour event, Valderrama, although he pointed out that they had only ever played a handful of tournaments together.
‘There will be no rivalry or anything like that. We’re brothers at the end of the day as much as we’re golfers.
Alex, pictured with Matt and their parents, plies his trade on the low-profile Challenge Tour
‘I’ve gained a lot of knowledge through my brother for the past couple of years’
‘I root for him, he roots for me. We’re both supporting each other and we want what’s best for each other.’
This Open is unusual in that there have been two sets of brothers in the field, and Sheffield’s Fitzpatricks look set to beat Denmark’s Hojgaards.
Nicolai made the cut and finished on three under par while his twin, Rasmus, missed the cut.
The Yorkshiremen both had storming finishes on Saturday, each playing the last four holes in three under. Matt had four birdies from the 14th onwards, but a bogey at 16.
It would be fair to say that the pair of them have a complicated relationship with Hoylake’s much-discussed 17 hole. Both have suffered a triple bogey six there in recent days, but the two of them birdied it on Saturday.
‘We’re both supporting each other and we want what’s best for each other’
Despite that, Matt stated on Saturday that he would like to see course designers ‘start again’ with the par three, although he did add a more measured assessment of his six on Friday.
‘I hit a bad shot, so that’s on me, I got punished. At the same time, I think the punishment was a bit too severe. I don’t particularly like any uphill par-3s.’ His playing partner Smith believes he is ‘probably a little bit too far back’ to have a chance of defending his title after ending on minus one with a 68.
He was not complaining but said: ‘It’s just a tough course. You can hit quality shot after quality shot and if you don’t, it penalises you really quickly, that’s the sign of a good course.
‘If you’re trying to be aggressive and generally major winners are aggressive, it can bite you in the bum.’