(Reuters) – Tommy Fleetwood’s romantic adventure at the Open championship took another “lovely” upward turn on Saturday as the local hero shot a four-under-par 66 to leave him still dreaming of a storybook finish to his remarkable week.
The Englishman’s back story — that of the lad who would sneak on to the course at Royal Birkdale as a seven-year-old to play a few cheeky shots — captured everyone’s imagination in the tournament build-up.
After a dismal start on Thursday when it appeared the pressure of all the hype had affected him as he shot an opening 76, the 26-year-old has recovered superbly and lies at one over par going into Sunday’s final round.
Asked by reporters if he still felt he had a chance of the most outlandish win, Fleetwood shrugged: “Who knows? We’ll have to see what the weather brings this afternoon. After a good one, if I have another good one tomorrow, we’ll see.”
He followed up his resilient second-round 69, which he felt was one of his best of the year and enabled him to make the cut for the first time in four Opens, by recording four birdies and an eagle on Saturday while playing alongside another Birkdale hero, Justin Rose.
Followed by another big crowd all cheering the hirsute hero who was brought up in neighboring Southport, Fleetwood reckoned that making things happen on the final weekend had represented another terrific experience in his big week.
“It would have been pretty rubbish staying home for the weekend. It was lovely,” he smiled, only disappointed that he did not quite get back to level par as his launch pad for a powerful Sunday finale.
“But it’s just great to be able to have two rounds on the weekend. This is an experience that you don’t get every week.
“Getting clapped on to every green and every tee and people that you know. Having four days of it is a lot better than two.”
Was there not a sense of what might have been following his stuttering start?
“Shot six-over the first round, so deal with it. That’s what you’ve got to do. I wish I would have started off better. But that’s golf and that’s life,” said the world number 14.
“Another low one tomorrow, might top-10 it or something. Just depends on what the conditions are.”
(Reporting by Ian Chadband; Editing by Clare Fallon)