Englishman Tommy Fleetwood breaks through into elite class
Tommy Fleetwood has become better known in the past 15 months for his golf than his long hair, both of which are now world-class.
After a solid 2016, the Englishman had a breakout season last year on the European Tour at age 26, winning twice, capturing that tour’s Race to Dubai title and breaking into the top 20 of the world golf ranking for the first time. It happened after he won the French Open in July, jumping him from 21th to 15th. He’s been as high as 10th, in early March.
Fleetwood edged Justin Rose for the "Race" title, which is based on points accumulated from prize money won on the European Tour.
“It’s the biggest day of my career, for sure,” Fleetwood said.
He also played in the Masters for the first time. He didn’t have a memorable debut, shooting 78-74 to miss the cut by two shots.
“The weather kind of hurt a little bit in the preparation side on the Tuesday and Wednesday when it was foul weather,” he said of the 2017 Masters. “I didn’t prepare well enough on and around the greens, and that’s where Augusta obviously lies. I actually played OK, I just gave away so many shots away on the back nine around the greens. That’s the main thing to address when we get back out there.”
It’s been more than three years since Fleetwood let his hair grow out, altering his image on the course.
“It’s nice to have something that sets you apart," he said. "There are a lot of people who have long hair on planet Earth, but not many of them are golfers.”
In addition to winning the Race to Dubai, Fleetwood won the Seve Ballesteros Award, the European Tour player of the year prize voted on by the players.
“That was very cool,” Fleetwood said. “The Seve award was more meaningful to me. To have the kind of recognition from your peers, that meant more. That made me more emotional than the Race to Dubai."
Now with four European Tour wins, including the Abu Dhabi HSBC in January for the second consecutive year, Fleetwood wants one on the PGA Tour. He’s splitting time on both tours this year.
“It’s sort of the next step, if you like, since last year was my first year playing more events on the PGA Tour,” said Fleetwood, who had temporary membership last year. “This is my first year with full PGA Tour status. There are plenty of goals that I have, but winning on the PGA Tour would be great, it’s sort of the next step.”
Fleetwood was ranked No. 11 in the world going into the Arnold Palmer Invitational in mid-March.
“My ultimate goal in life is to be the best player in the world,” he said. “That will always be the same. Whether I achieve it or not is another thing, but I’ll always strive for that.”