By Simon Evans
PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland (Reuters) – Two years ago, at Royal Birkdale, Tommy Fleetwood was the talk of the town — the in-form, local hero primed to make a push for his first major championship win.
It did not happen. But this time in Northern Ireland on another British Open links course, the lank-haired 28-year-old has quietly gone about putting himself in contention.
A four-under round of 67 on the Dunluce links on Friday, following his steady opening-round 68, left Fleetwood within a shot of the lead.
His best ever major finishes have been fourth and second places in the U.S. Open in 2017 and 2018 respectively and there is something about the relaxed and confident way he has played this week that suggests a similar result — or even better — could be a possibility on Sunday.
“When these chances come around you want to take them and you want to be known. It’s your chance of putting your name in the history of the game. For sure all of us dream of having majors in our career and taking those opportunities,” said Fleetwood after his round on Friday.
At the same time, Fleetwood is a balanced enough individual that he knows such moments are relatively rare and have to be savored, although that does not mean he won’t feel the competitive juices flowing.
“For sure, I’m not going to tee off tomorrow (Saturday) and say I’m going to love this whatever happens. I want to make it happen. I want to win a major,” he said.
“You’ve put yourself in contention with half of the event to go. I’m not going to bore you with psychology, because we all know it. It really is important not to look at how much I want to win The Open, how much I can picture myself with the Claret Jug.
“It’s about having lunch together, spending time with my family, getting up tomorrow, warming up, the first tee shot and that’s as far as we can go for now.”
Fleetwood is at ease talking about his wife and children and the balance he likes to strike between home-time and his career and he believes such a stable background helps when it comes to the crunch on the course.
“I think that’s the beauty of having a great family and having such a great environment off the golf course — when you do come out to play your sole focus is you and the golf course,” he said.
“And for me I have the luxury when I come off, whether I shoot 85 or 65, (wife) Clare’s not going to care, (son) Frankie is not going to care, (Clare’s children) Oscar and Mo, they don’t care. I’ll care, but eventually I’ll get over it quicker because of those guys,” he said.
“That is the luxury of having a great family behind you because you can put all your focus into that four hours, five hours and when you come off you have that distraction.”
(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Toby Davis)