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Fitzpatrick and Johnson are highlighted at the U.S. Open in the 5th episode of “Full Swing.”
The long-anticipated Netflix series “Full Swing” hit streaming devices on Feb. 15 with eight episodes featuring a dozen stars who brought us inside their homes and lives on tour in 2022. So, what did you miss? And what do you need to know? Here, we’ll break down every episode.
Forget “American Dreams.” Episode 5 of “Full Swing” — which is named under that title — could have just as easily been called “Dreams and Memories,” as the show examines the different stages faced by American Dustin Johnson and Brit Matthew Fitzpatrick in their respective careers at the 2022 U.S. Open.
The point is, Fitzpatrick and Johnson couldn’t be more polar opposite features at the beginning of 2022. Fitzpatrick had a standout amateur career, winning the 2013 U.S. Amateur — also at the Country Club — and winning seven times in Europe after turning professional, including two DP World (European) Tour Championships. But at the beginning of 2022, the 27-year-old was still looking for his first win on the PGA Tour.
Meanwhile, Johnson entered 2022 the alpha dog of the PGA Tour. From the time of his rookie season in 2008, he had more wins (24) and official career earnings (nearly $75 million) than anyone in golf. But by the time Netflix came knocking for “Full Swing,” the father of two was starting to rethink his priorities. He hadn’t won on the PGA Tour since the 2020 Masters and had fallen outside the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Midway through the year, Johnson became the most shocking name to join Saudi-backed LIV Golf, a sign the breakaway league could develop some legitimacy.
In episode 5, Dustin Johnson seems truly content with his place in the game. He sees LIV Golf as a business decision that also allows him to spend more time with his family. For context, Johnson was offered a reported $125 million signing bonus and played eight events for the rival tour in 2022. Johnson played around 20 PGA Tour events in the past few years.
“The decision to join LIV finally just came down to the offer that they made me,” Johnson said. “For me it was playing less, making more money. Pretty simple. If someone offered anyone a job, doing the same thing they’re already doing, but less time at the office and they’re going to pay them more, pretty sure you’re going to take it.
“And something is wrong with you if you didn’t.”
The decision to join LIV hasn’t been as simple for many of Johnson’s colleagues. All who have played in LIV Golf events, including Johnson, have been banned by the PGA Tour indefinitely. LIV events also do not yet earn world ranking points, jeopardizing the main way of entry into majors for its players. Then there’s the issue of the morality of the money coming from Saudi Arabia, which has a poor record of human rights abuses, including the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Johnson’s wife, Paulina Gretzky, explained the decision was primarily based on the couple’s two children, Tatum and River. Gretzky, the daughter of legendary hockey player Wayne Gretzky, recalled how she struggled with having an athlete as a father who would sometimes have to miss birthdays.
Johnson was one of LIV’s biggest targets, but Fitzpatrick wasn’t. He revealed he was given a “half-hearted” offer by the league.
We don’t look as deeply into Fitzpatrick’s family life in the episode, but we do get a neat interaction between him and his brother Alex. Most will remember Alex both as Matt’s even smaller caddie during the 2013 U.S. Am, or for his celebrations this year at Brookline, but the 24-year-old just turned professional in June.
The younger Fitzpatrick has had a respectable amateur career, reaching as high as 4th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking while attending Wake Forest.
Yet, just looking at the two side-by-side, you wouldn’t know they were brothers. Whereas Matt is quiet, skinny and baby-faced; Alex is unshaven, stocky and noticeably talkative. But the biggest difference between the two is Matt’s attention to detail — cameras show the elder Fitzpatrick brother combing through his famous notes collection on a handful of different occasions.
Rarely have we seen successful siblings on the PGA Tour, save for the Molinari brothers. These two seem like they’d make an entertaining duo if Alex can make it to the big time.
Not all athletes are celebrities. OK, most people know this, but it’s pretty humbling to see Fitzpatrick complain about not getting recognized back in his hometown of Sheffield, England while looking like a preteen sitting next to his manager/friend Ted Brady. Fitzpatrick is far from physically imposing, but his braces and boyish charm are a bit of a dead giveaway.
Next, we dive into Fitzpatrick’s ridiculous stat-keeping. He pulls out a box from a closet at his family home to reveal hundreds of yardage books detailing every shot back to when he was 15. These are the books Tour players use during competition to figure out how far they are from the hole. In each book, Fitzpatrick writes down his yardage and club used.
“I can show you 7,000 shots if people want to see that,” Fitzpatrick tells a producer. “I’m always pushing to be better. And the analytics show me in black and white where I need to improve.”
It’s made clear that Fitzpatrick is a real student of the game, studying his stats and analytics to gain an edge. He explained how he discovered he needed to add distance to win — a big storyline in his U.S. Open victory.
Among the quiet revelations of the Netflix doc:
Dustin Johnson’s jump shot form is definitely worse than we imagined. Shotput-ie, with hints of Shaq at the FT line.
Might eventually go in, but he can’t play for me. pic.twitter.com/qi9tOnjoOS
The scene of Fitzpatrick watching the early coverage of the 4th round of the U.S. Open before he even gets to the golf course is must-see TV. And it grows even more compelling when the gate attendant at the Country Club before Fitzpatrick’s final round — which he is leading — doesn’t recognize him and has to ask his name.
“Hope you didn’t see that.” – Fitzpatrick after he causally bangs the U.S. Open trophy on a locker room bench just after getting it.
At first glance, episode 5 seemed like the most random pairing of golfers to feature in one episode, but it didn’t take long to realize that wasn’t the case.
Fitzpatrick goes from major disappointment at the PGA Championship to major triumph with his win at the U.S. Open a month later. While Johnson goes from PGA Tour star to the first major domino to fall in the PGA Tour-LIV Golf saga.
At the U.S. Open, when the two were paired together in the opening two rounds, Johnson actually had an edge on Fitzpatrick. But the second round was the turning point, as Fitzpatrick catapulted himself into contention while Johnson barely made the cut and faced questions about his golf future.
The final 10 minutes of the episode are perhaps the longest stretch of straight tournament action in the entire series. An interesting choice given the other player featured, Johnson, wasn’t a factor in the final round of the U.S. Open.
However, the tournament montage does an outstanding job of capturing the ups and downs of a player trying to win his first major. After Fitzpatrick seals the deal for the win, the sheer chaos and emotion that ensues are captured beautifully, starting with Fitzpatrick’s caddie, Billy Foster, and continuing all the way to Fitzpatrick nearly denting the trophy in the locker room.
While the show is at its best in showing the behind-the-scenes of life on Tour, every golf fan in the United States bore witness to the final plot development of episode 5: Matt Fitzpatrick had finally arrived on the PGA Tour.
Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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