How Crystal Palace inspired Matt Fitzpatrick to become a major champion!


Matt Fitzpatrick’s fitness coach has revealed how countless hours in the gym and lifting twice his body weight helped the Englishman clinch his first major – and all with a little inspiration from Crystal Palace Football Club.

Incredible speed and distance gains over the past few years played a key role in helping Fitzpatrick dominate The Country Club and be crowned US Open champion last month – and he is getting ready to try for a second major win in succession at St Andrews this week.

Fitzpatrick entered the week at Brookline ranked outside the top 100 on Tour in driving distance at just 298 yards per drive, but he went on to average just over 309 yards, tied for 13th longest in the field.

The celebrations were still in full swing when the 27-year-old from Sheffield revealed he has set himself the target of six major wins and, with the added distance off the tee, Matt Roberts, who oversees his strength and conditioning programme, backs the belief that the US Open will not be the last of Fitzpatrick’s major wins.

Speaking exclusively to Sportsmail ahead of the Open, Roberts says: ‘If he continues with the work ethic he’s got and continues along the path he’s set himself, there is no limit really. The big limit in practice he was getting was the distance.

‘Billy [Foster, Fitzpatrick’s caddie] has said he’s going to turn into a proper player now. Now he’s got the distance, Billy said to me he’s going to get bored winning these majors and he’s right.’

Matt Fitzpatrick won the first major of his career as he clinched US Open glory at Brookline

Matt Roberts (left), his personal trainer, has revealed how Fitzpatrick has made distance gains

Matt Roberts (left), his personal trainer, has revealed how Fitzpatrick has made distance gains

Fitzpatrick is going in search of major No 2 in the Open at St Andrews this week

Fitzpatrick is going in search of major No 2 in the Open at St Andrews this week

But the major win didn’t happen overnight. A lot of work has gone on behind the scenes – more specifically in the gym – for Fitzpatrick to be in the competitive position he is in.

Roberts, who owns Elitus, a sport consulting company, and has worked with Premier League stars, PGA and DP World Tour golfers, Olympic athletes and professional rugby players, has worked with Fitzpatrick to reach the added distance that saw him dominate in Boston.

He began working with Fitzpatrick when he was just 14 years old and enjoyed success as the player won the US Amateur (also at Brookline) and then the silver medal as the low-scoring amateur at the 2013 Open, but the pair split when Fitzpatrick went off to college in the US and Roberts took a position at Crystal Palace.

Fitzpatrick's caddie, Billy Foster (right), has claimed he is going to get bored of winning majors

Fitzpatrick’s caddie, Billy Foster (right), has claimed he is going to get bored of winning majors

Roberts and Fitzpatrick have worked towards his distance gain and ultimately the US Open

Roberts and Fitzpatrick have worked towards his distance gain and ultimately the US Open

However, once Fitzpatrick turned pro, they reunited in 2018 and began the journey that led to his distance gain and ultimately the US Open.

Roberts reveals it was then that the pair really began the work in the gym and slowly but surely made the steps towards the major win.

He says: ‘That’s when I thought if we’re going to do it properly now, we’ll give him the full sports science and sports medicine package, like a footballer would get because if you think about a footballer, when they go to a club, they don’t have to think about anything.

‘Everything’s done for them. The food, the training, the gym, the physio, it’s all planned for them. Whereas a golfer it’s very hard for them to get kind of the right structure around the game, the training, all that kind of stuff.

‘We started with some biomechanics. We go to a lab in Manchester. That helps measure his force and swing speed and joint sequencing. From that we can then put together a gym programme to help improve certain aspects.

‘So if his sequencing is out it means his coordination is quite not there, so we can work on that in the gym, or if he needs to provide more force, we can then again work on that in the gym. It just helps quantify what he does and put some numbers behind it.

‘When he is on off-weeks he trains five days a week. He’ll do two lower limb sessions, two upper body sessions and a core recovery session.

Fitzpatrick trains five times during off-weeks and three times in the lead up to tournaments

Fitzpatrick trains five times during off-weeks and three times in the lead up to tournaments

‘Then tournament weeks, he’ll do a core recovery on a Monday, uppers on a Tuesday and then lowers on a Wednesday and another gym session around tee off times, depending on what side of the draw he gets. So it’s pretty full on.’

Roberts reveals that Fitzpatrick’s gains in the gym have allowed him to turn to speed training and the ‘Stack System’ – a special speed training technique for pro golfers – to find the gains on the course but concedes there are warning signs when golfers first try to implement it.

‘We found a formula that worked for him,’ he explains. ‘With the split body parts and just trying to smash it on off week, that’s where he made his biggest gains. Then going into tournaments, trying to maintain it before hammering it again on off weeks again. He is slowly but surely, month by month making small incremental improvements.

‘Speed training and the Stack System helped him convert all the hard work he’s doing in the gym. I think with the Stack System, you have to be of a certain strength to earn the right to use it because if you just use the Stack System on your own, you’re just doing repeated movements at really high, fast speed and you get injured.’

And Fitzpatrick did not take to the system like a duck to water as Roberts revealed it was a slow process for him to be able to get used to the extra forces.

Fitzpatrick's training has allowed him to cope with the extra forces of speed training and get the distance out on the course

Fitzpatrick’s training has allowed him to cope with the extra forces of speed training and get the distance out on the course

‘The first 12 months were an absolute disaster,’ he says. ‘I was going out last minute, leaving my wife, just trying to fix his body.

‘You have to have a multi-pronged approach to the Stack System. The gym metrics have to match up to the stack. Otherwise you end up breaking down and getting injured.

‘It’s been a long process to try and slowly and incrementally over the five years, get him to a point of deadlifting or bench pressing one and a half times his body weight, or two times his body weight. That allows his body to deal with the extra forces. I think that’s what has allowed Matt to get the distance.’

Roberts stresses that the gradual approach to changes is vital to avoid sacrificing the strong technical elements of a golfer’s swing or the downfall Bryson DeChambeau has experienced this year.

He says: ‘If you do all the changes, I’ve just talked about, incrementally, slowly but surely over a period of time, then that seeps into his game without changing anything.

Bryson DeChambeau has suffered with injuries, requiring surgery on his wrist in April

Bryson DeChambeau has suffered with injuries, requiring surgery on his wrist in April

‘He’s always been a great driver of the ball. He’s always been really accurate. He just wanted to add a bit of distance to it. So we just slowly chipped away it without making anything radical to his body, or really alien.

‘He started to improve, and then suddenly, it was “oh, we were getting a bit of momentum, now we can start to swing a bit harder”. We’ve not sacrificed the technical parameters he is used to.

‘When people try to make drastic changes, like Bryson, for example, he breaks his hand or he’s out injured for a while or he does his back in. Sometimes the changes are too drastic and the body can really, really suffer.’

Fitzpatrick has not eased up on the gym sessions even during the build up to the 150th Open as Roberts reveals they are working out together three times before the final major of the year tees off.

On Tuesday morning the pair tackled a lower body session, involving dead lifts, single leg lunges or Bulgarian split squats, step-ups and lateral lunges.

Fitzpatrick has not eased up on the gym sessions even during the build up to the 150th Open

Fitzpatrick has not eased up on the gym sessions even during the build up to the 150th Open

Wednesday focused on the upper body, which involved lots of pull-ups, bench press and dips but the session will ensure that Fitzpatrick’s arms will be fresh for Thursday’s first round.

‘You have to find stuff that fits in with his swing,’ Roberts explains. ‘That’s not going to compromise his movements but still going to strengthen the right area.

‘We can’t really do upper body before he plays because obviously you’re going to fatigue the arms a little bit too much. You want to have his arms a bit more finely tuned. So we always do uppers after he plays that day.’

And with the Open – and a potential second major win – in their sights, Roberts insists Fitzpatrick is in good shape to tear St Andrews apart as he did Brookline. 

‘Physically he is great,’ he insists. ‘He’s not got any issues. He was back in the gym last week at the Scottish Open, after about 10 or 12 days off after the US Open and back in the gym this week, did a session Monday morning, Tuesday and Wednesday.’ 

Following his US Open win, Fitzpatrick returned to the gym and the Scottish Open last week

Following his US Open win, Fitzpatrick returned to the gym and the Scottish Open last week

Fitzpatrick’s off-weeks do not offer much of a break for the Englishman either with the workload actually increasing.

Roberts reveals they step up the volume of exercise with sessions involving five or six sets compared to the two or three he will do during a tournament week.

‘It’s a good time to keep overloading the body,’ Roberts explains. ‘He is getting used to the soreness and the stiffness, so when he comes to a to week, we can still lift the same weight.’

And that weight is no mean feat. Roberts reveals that Fitzpatrick is deadlifting 140kg, two times his body weight and bench pressing 70kg.

The 27-year-old has built up to deadlifting 140kg - two times his body weight

The 27-year-old has built up to deadlifting 140kg – two times his body weight

However, he warns there is a delicate balance between hitting the weights and tipping over into the bulky side.

‘You don’t want to get too bulky up top because that might affect your swing – the mechanics or flexibility,’ he says. ‘It’s a really fine balance of mobility, strength, power and trying to juggle all the things that fits in with the technical side that the coach wants.’

Roberts credits Fitzpatrick’s own determination for his gains, insisting the major win is a testament to the player’s work ethic.

He says: ‘He bought into it and I’m not with him like all the time. I’m with him probably 18 weeks of the year. The rest of the time he’s got to train on his own.

‘He’s not the biggest player. He’s not like Dustin Johnson or Brooks Koepka. He understood that he needed to kind of work a lot harder at the physical side than the others. He got his head down.’

Roberts says Fitzpatrick must work harder in the gym than bigger players like Brooks Koepka

Roberts says Fitzpatrick must work harder in the gym than bigger players like Brooks Koepka

But naturally, the Covid-19 pandemic threw a spanner in the works and halted Fitzpatrick’s progress.

‘He actually got really good in the gym and really strong at the end of 2019 into 2020,’ he says. ‘But obviously then Covid came and that affected him. All the gyms shut in England, so we lost all those gains really and we had to start from scratch again.’

The overloaded restart to the Tour following lockdown also delayed their work slightly, which led to the decision to take a ‘pre-season’ this year, inspired by Roberts’s football days at Crystal Palace.

Fitzpatrick has begun from scratch again after the Covid-19 lockdown

Fitzpatrick has begun from scratch again after the Covid-19 lockdown

‘Obviously the schedule was really condensed,’ he explains. ‘They were trying to cram the tournaments in. So there was no real respite.

‘This year we said let’s have January off. So we had a pre-season in January. We had no tournaments, no travel, stayed at home. That just allowed him to get a really good pre-season of gym load. Really intense, really hard, lots of practice and that set him up for the year.

‘Golf is not like football or rugby where you can play with a bit of stiffness and a bit of soreness. It is quite a technical sport. So if you’re stiff or sore in your arms, it might really affect how you swing the golf club. The pre-season really helped him to get him through that period of stiffness.’

But it isn’t all work and no play as Roberts revealed there is a good-natured relationship among the team with golf even taking the back seat at times.

Fitzpatrick is a renowned Sheffield United fan, while Roberts is big supporter of Liverpool and although Fitzpatrick’s beloved Blades are not currently in the Premier League the topic of football appears to be a source of ribbing among the team.

‘He loves football,’ Roberts says. ‘He’s a massive Sheffield United fan. I’ve worked in football most of my life, so we used to talk about football or sport in general. Just anything other than golf!

‘Within the team, Billy, his caddie, is a massive Leeds fan. Phil Kenyon (putting coach) is a Liverpool fan. Mike Walker (swing coach) is a Liverpool fan and Ted, his manager, is an Everton fan. So, there’s a lot of banter flying around.’

Roberts revealed there is a light-hearted atmosphere in the team, including caddie Billy Foster

Roberts revealed there is a light-hearted atmosphere in the team, including caddie Billy Foster 

There are also differences in the music each would like to play while working out in the gym.

‘I’m a bit older than Matt. I’m 40. So I’ll play house music, whereas he’s a bit more into his American R’n’B and hiphop,’ says Roberts.

After working with Fitzpatrick since the age of 14, the US Open win obviously meant a lot to Roberts as well.

Roberts was at Brookline when Will Zalatoris’s putt slid past the 18th hole to see Fitpatrick clinch the major win and after the grind the victory means so much more to them both.

Roberts was at The Country Club to witness Will Zalatoris's (right) putt sail by the hole on 18

Roberts was at The Country Club to witness Will Zalatoris’s (right) putt sail by the hole on 18

When asked what it was like to witness the US Open win, Roberts insists: ‘It’s just very, very surreal. Obviously amazing.

‘I think people in sports, they see these moments and they don’t really understand the work that goes on behind the scenes to make these moments possible. The weeks away from your family, the weeks on the road, the grind, all that kind of stuff. People don’t see that, they just see the glorious golf courses in the sunshine.

‘I was supposed to fly home on the Sunday and he got into the last group again. So I changed my flight for the Monday, which was a good choice!

‘Me and Billy had a few there Sunday night. He doesn’t drink, does Fitzy, so me and Billy drunk his share.’

Having known Fitzpatrick from a young age, it is fair to say Roberts knows the recently-crowned US Open champion fairly well and he insists the player is a hard worker – and apparently a smart investor too.

Roberts says that Fitzpatrick has got a great family, including younger brother Alex (left)

Roberts says that Fitzpatrick has got a great family, including younger brother Alex (left)

‘I’ve seen him as a young school kid and slowly over time he’s matured into a young adult,’ he says. ‘He’s got a nice little life and he’s earned it to be honest. He works hard. He’s such a nice guy. He’s really family-oriented. He’s got a great family and a good younger brother who’s good at golf as well.

‘The good thing about Matt is – going back to that football analogy, the football club have to pay the wages for the physios, the strength coaches, the coaches, the nutritionist – whereas in golf, Matt has to outlay that.

‘He has a massive team. He’s got eight or nine coaches. So his wage bill is quite high, and he’s continually reinvesting the money he earns back into himself, back into the team and not many other players do that.’

If Billy Foster’s prediction is right, the US Open is just the first of many major wins for Fitzpatrick but when asked what the next step is, Roberts asks why mess with a winning formula?

‘[We will] just keep going as we are,’ he says. ‘Obviously there’ll be a certain limit to what he can achieve because he isn’t built like a DJ or Brooks. There are certain physical limitations. His body might say “this is fast enough”, but at the same time how much faster do we need to be really?’



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