Tommy Fleetwood wants to turn major rounds into victories
Tommy Fleetwood has become such a world-class golfer in the past three years that even spectacular rounds in major championships leave him slightly disappointed.
It happened twice last year. First was in the third-round in the Masters Tournament where Fleetwood was 2-under after the first 11 holes, then reeled off birdies from Nos. 12-15 en route to a 66, despite a bogey on No. 18.
“It’s strange coming off Augusta disappointed with a 66, but it was a very, very good day,” he said.
Two months later at the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, he missed a 9-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole that would have tied the major-championship single-round record of 62 and forced a playoff with Brooks Koepka. He settled for a 63 and finished a shot behind Koepka.
“I knew straight away it was going to be short (of tying for the championship lead),” Fleetwood said. “A 62, that would have been very special. If I’d shot 62 and lost, at least I would have one of the two. I would have had the history. I didn’t get either.”
At age 28, Fleetwood has done well at the majors since missing the cut at his Masters debut in 2017. He’s made seven straight cuts and has four top-20 finishes, including a fourth in the 2017 U.S. Open. Not coincidentally, he’s been inside the top 20 in the world ranking since July 2017, moving as high as ninth.
“I’ve been lucky enough to play well in the majors,” he said. “I’ve definitely had to prepare for them. It takes you a little time to get used to the atmosphere at majors.”
His rookie year at the Masters, where he shot 78-74 to miss the cut by two shots, turned out to be a valuable learning experience for the Englishman.
“I think I learned a lot from it. I struggled on the greens that time and that kind of killed me a little bit," he said. "It hurts missing cuts, of course it does, but I learned a lot from it and I prepared better last year because of it.”
Fleetwood finished in a tie for 17th last year. He played the first two rounds with four-time champion Tiger Woods, who had missed the previous two Masters with injuries.
“Playing with Tiger Woods at the Masters doesn’t come any better, does it?” he asked. “He was great. If you didn’t know who he was and you’d never met him before and you had no idea, I’d have walked off and I’d thought, ‘I really enjoyed playing with him there today.’ It was great.”
Fleetwood said his 66 in the third round proved what he already knew - he could go low at Augusta National because of his draw off the tee and high iron shots into the greens, both of which fit the course.
“The two times I’ve played, I’ve loved the course,” Fleetwood said. “Not just because it’s Augusta, but I feel a lot of it suits my game and I enjoyed playing there.”
With four European Tour victories and a starring role with Francesco Molinari in Europe’s 2018 Ryder Cup victory (they teamed to go 4-0 and Fleetwood also won his singles match), Fleetwood has specific goals in mind now.
“I still need to win in America; I haven’t done that yet," he said. "Majors, absolutely, as your career keeps moving, if you can keep improving, they become the next step. It’s where you like to get to."