CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (AP) — Two rounds of 63, made eight months apart and on different sides of the Atlantic, are fuelling the belief that Tommy Fleetwood can end the American dominance of the majors at the British Open.
The first came at the Dunhill Links Championship in October when he broke the course record at Carnoustie, where the world’s oldest major will be staged this week.
Then came another in the final round of the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills last month, which propelled him to within a stroke of eventual winner Brooks Koepka.
Fleetwood, with his long, flowing hair and cherubic smile, was the face of last year’s British Open played at his home course of Royal Birkdale.
With those recent 63s on his resume, it’s no surprise he’s among the favorites 12 months on.
“The only thing they do is build your confidence and give you examples of what you can do,” Fleetwood said on Monday, “but at the end of the day, come Thursday, it’s the Open Championship, and I’ve got to go out there and hit the golf shots and hole the putts.”
This is a very different Carnoustie to the one Fleetwood faced last year, in a regular European Tour event that took place weeks after he became a father for the first time.
Then, the fairways were green and lush, he wore a beanie to protect his head from the cold, and there were no imposing grandstands surrounding the greens.
Eight months on, the ground is brown and baked after a hot British summer that is showing no sign of abating. Simply keeping the ball in play on the firm and fast fairways is priority No. 1.
“Shots that you’ve hit have literally no relevance for a lot of it,” Fleetwood said by way of a comparison. “It doesn’t do any harm to have a course record, but it’s a completely different challenge to what we normally face.”
More significant to Fleetwood, the European No. 1 and the world No. 10, was the 63 at Shinnecock that nearly brought him his first major title. The pin positions were more accessible and the greens were softer that Sunday compared to the brutal previous day, but he still had an 8-foot putt at No. 18 for a first 62 at the U.S. Open.
“It is proof to yourself,” Fleetwood said, “… that you can end up there and you have the game to eventually compete.”
Americans have won the last five majors stretching back to the 2017 U.S. Open, an alarming streak from a European point of view ahead of the Ryder Cup in Paris in September.
As one of four Europeans in the world’s top 10, Fleetwood is among those best placed to end that run this week.
“America, there’s no doubt about it and there’s no other way to put it, they have an exceptional bunch of players at the moment,” Fleetwood said. “It just so happens that it has been a run of American golfers that have won majors, but at the same time, they’ve generally been the best players in the world at the time that they’ve won them.
“It will be nice to break that run.”