30 May 2019

Tommy Fleetwood – Still ‘Ryding’ High

Tommy Fleetwood has grown into one of the most recognisable players in the game in a remarkably short space of time, thanks to his laser-like iron play, deft touch on the greens and unmistakable long hair flowing out from beneath his cap. The 28-year-old’s unbeaten run alongside Francesco Molinari at last year’s Ryder Cup at Le Golf National in Paris, re-wrote the history books and announced him to the attention of the wider sporting public. Worldwide Golf was on site at the Betfred British Masters last month, where Fleetwood was tournament host, to assess his rise in the game and his burgeoning popularity among both the fans and his fellow Tour pros.

So far this year, Tommy Fleetwood’s form has been steady, making cut after cut, yet his first top ten finish of his 2019 campaign came at the event he had just hosted – the Betfred British Masters at Hillside GC in his home-town of Southport, Lancashire. He was in contention for much of the tournament but struggled to click into gear on the final day and came home with a 73 to finish in eighth place.

“Perhaps playing host hindered my competitiveness towards the end, and I got a little bit tired,” said Fleetwood in the immediate aftermath of presenting winner Marcus Kinhult with the trophy. “I was in contention and I really wanted to win the event – I’d have loved to have done it. Maybe I didn’t practise as much as I normally would so the preparation was a bit different, but I loved every minute of it, and I was humbled by the crowds who turned out in their thousands to support the tournament.”

Fleetwood’s hosting of the British Masters was announced in October last year, giving organisers only six months to prepare for everything that hosting a European Tour event entails. The nature of the quick turnaround heightened the focus from all involved and the tournament was an unquestionable success, keeping alive an event that was rebooted in 2015 after a six-year absence. Fleetwood’s role in being the face of the event has enhanced his reputation beyond all expectation and revealed more about him and his approachable and likeable nature. Combine this with his determination to be the best he can be and his genuine world-class talent, he has become one of golf’s most popular ambassadors in a very short space of time. “People find they are able to give back at different times in their careers and hosting the Betfred British Masters came at exactly the right time for me,” said Fleetwood, who launched his own Academy at nearby Formby Hall Golf Club in March.

‘I WANT TO GROW THE GAME’

“I love spending time with kids. I love watching the game grow, and I love to spend my life with people who love the game. The Tommy Fleetwood Academy is for juniors aged six to 14 and I want to try to grow the game the way I think it should be played – making it fun, cool and more accessible to kids.”

Fleetwood joined the European Tour in 2012 after a superb year on the European Challenge Tour where he topped the season-long rankings. He won his first title at Gleneagles in 2013 and, suddenly, big things were expected of the youngster after a hugely successful amateur career. However, things didn’t all go according to plan and following a few years with a lack of clear progress, some deep soul searching in 2016 led him back to his first coach, Alan Thompson, to effectively reboot his golf game. It didn’t take long for everything to finally click into place.

TOMMY FLEETWOOD ATTRACTED HUGE SUPPORT FROM HIS LOCAL FANS WHEN HE PLAYED HOST AT THIS YEAR’S BRITISH MASTERS AT HILLSIDE GOLF CLUB.

In 2017 he thrust himself firmly into the limelight, winning the year-long Race to Dubai, courtesy of victories at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and the Open de France. He followed that with another season to remember. He successfully defended his title in Abu Dhabi and carded a final round 63 at Shinnecock Hills to finish runner-up at the US Open, before his starring role at Le Golf National, scoring four points from five matches on his Ryder Cup debut. While a win is yet to materialise so far in 2019, Fleetwood is happy with where his game is currently at. “I’m used to starting my year much faster than I have this year, but I feel like I’m getting better,” he said. “Last season I played a lot with Tiger Woods, which shows my career is in a good place. I also switched between playing in Europe and America a bit, so that was a good experience and I competed well in the Majors. So, it’s all going really well at the moment.

RYDER HIGHLIGHT

“The highlight of last year was obviously The Ryder Cup. I also had some great times in other events. Shooting 63 at the US Open was a massive day for me, but The Ryder Cup is the big one. I think that’s the one event which people associate me with. “In regards to Shinnecock, it could have been far better. I had some good chances but didn’t take them. It was a strange day. I shot the lowest-ever round in a US Open yet I was disappointed not to have won the event.

FLEETWOOD SCORED FOUR POINT FROM FIVE MATCHES ON HIS RYDER CUP DEBUT AT LE GOLF NATIONAL

But to show that you can shoot a round like that, at an event like that, and on a course like that, was quite something. The steady flow that I got into on that day is something that we all strive for, and it’s something that I have under my belt. It proved I can do it on the biggest stage.” Being on the biggest stage is something Fleetwood has become accustomed to, but it’s a far cry from his upbringing on Merseyside, in the coastal resort of Southport.

HOW I GOT INTO THE GAME

“My dad got me into golf,” he recalls. “My first experience of playing was with what used to be called Sefton Juniors. It took place every Monday night at the Southport Municipal course. I was aged about five or six and my brother used to play. I went down there on one occasion and my dad had cut down a couple of clubs so I just hit one. I’m pretty sure it was on the seventh hole and I hit it really well. Then I gradually got into the game more and more. There was also a putting green, which I loved. My dad would take me there and my interest in golf grew steadily from there.

I went on to get a membership at Formby Hall, where I’ve just opened my own academy, and I played most of my golf there. I just loved it. Whether on the putting green at Municipal or playing nine holes on a Monday night – that was my life. “When you are a kid you dream as big as you possibly can. I loved all that. I was doing pretty well in junior competitions and I was always a good golfer, but I would have to say, realistically, it wasn’t until I left school that I really thought I could make it as a golfer. I gave myself a couple of years when I thought I would practise a lot and see how I got on.

“I had always wanted to turn professional, and I was at an age when I could make a proper decision to carry on pursuing that dream I had as a kid. I’ve had some great times already. You’d always like to be further on in your career, to have won more, but I also really appreciate the journey I am on and I’m proud of what I have achieved so far.”

Tommy’s journey has taken him to numerous places around the world – but would he consider being British Masters host again further down the line? “I’d say yes if I get asked again, for sure,” he says. “I didn’t know how it was going to go at Hillside. It all came around so quickly, from the time when we had our first meeting about it. Such a lot goes into a tournament like the British Masters, but I would love to have the opportunity again to bring it back.”

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