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Fearless Fitzpatrick doesn’t need brother’s advice in taking down No. 1

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HOYLAKE, England – Halfway through the 47th Walker Cup, Alex Fitzpatrick has been the standout for Great Britain and Ireland. The Wake Forest sophomore by way of England won his opening foursomes match alongside Conor Purcell, taking down U.S. Amateur finalists John Augenstein and Andy Ogletree, and then beat world No. 1 Cole Hammer in singles.

Fizpatrick’s stellar performance has come as no surprise.

“I think if Alex was playing in front of one person, he would thrive,” GB&I captain Craig Watson said, “so to put him in front of as many people as we were watching today, it’s just a buzz.”

No one in the gallery was more impressed than Fitzpatrick’s older brother, Matthew, the 29th-ranked professional in the world.

“And I thought I had a good stinger…,” Matthew said.

Of course, the older Fitzpatrick has always known about his younger brother’s fearlessness. There’s a reason Fitzpatrick was sent off first in both sessions – yes, he’s a fast player and likes to run, but the GB&I team knew Hammer would likely be sent out first and Fitzpatrick wanted to be the guy tasked with taking him down.

“He’s not scared,” Matthew said. “He’ll take anything on. That’s always the way he’s been.”

Matthew, who earned three points in a GB&I loss at the 2013 Walker Cup, was so confident of Alex this week that he didn’t give him one word of guidance.

“I got more advice from my dog than I did from him,” Alex quipped.

It’s worked out well so far, as Fitzpatrick is one of two GB&I players to be 2-0, along with Conor Gough. The second point was more special, though.

“He got one over on me at the U.S. Amateur,” said Alex, referencing his defeat to Hammer in the U.S. Amateur quarterfinals last year at Pebble Beach. “It’s nice to get one back at him.”

The two players traded blows for much of the day on a tough Royal Liverpool layout that yielded few birdies on Day 1. Hammer birdied Nos. 2 and 3 to quickly go 2 up. But Fitzpatrick battled back with birdies on Nos. 4 and 6. Nos. 8 and 9 were traded with birdies, and the fierce competitors entered the par-4 14th hole at all square.

That’s when Fitzpatrick took control, birdieing No. 14 and then making a bomb for birdie on the par-4 15th. Hammer clawed back with birdie on No. 16 but get in trouble at the last, conceding the match after a couple of hacks out of the thick fescue.

“I enjoy challenges, I guess, and today was obviously quite a big challenge to face,” Fitzpatrick said, “but yet I succeeded.”