Tommy’s never been so keen to be in the red

Ormskirk Advertiser - - Martin Mere - BY RICHARD WIL­LIAMSON

NEVER can an Ever­to­nian have wanted to see so much of the red stuff as Tommy Fleet­wood. The Southport golfer and Ev­er­ton fan had made it through to the fi­nal day of an Open Championship for the first time on the course just a few miles down the road from where he was brought up.

And the 26-year-old, who had to con­tend with a wel­ter of pre-event ex­pec­ta­tion that he could be a gen­uine con­tender for the Claret Jug, was de­ter­mined to de­liver a fi­nal flour­ish for the hordes of sup­port­ers that had fol­lowed him among the record-break­ing crowds at Royal Birk­dale.

That sup­port re­sulted in the most un­usual chants ever heard on a golf course, in­clud­ing a karaoke spe­cial as he made his way down the 15th, only part of which is reprint­able in a fam­ily news­pa­per.

“Oh Tommy Fleet­wood, I’ve got curly hair, too” to the tune of I Love You Baby brought a smile from the player whose trade­mark long hair­cut has at­tracted as much at­ten­tion as his prodi­gious play.

In­deed, it was smiles all round as a re­laxed Tommy took time out to spot friends and fam­ily in the crowd, while the re­cep­tion he re­ceived down the 18th could just as eas­ily been ac­corded to a player at the top of the leader­board.

But the frus­tra­tion for Fleet­wood was that through­out much of his round, his score­card stub­bornly re­fused to turn red af­ter he was sent on his way from the first tee with a cho­rus of ‘come on Tommy’ and one ‘Nil Satis nisi op­ti­mum’!

The Ev­er­ton FC motto was ap­pro­pri­ate given the at­ten­dance of a group of play­ers from the club in­clud­ing re­turn­ing Wayne Rooney, Phil Jagielka, Gareth Barry, Michael Keane and Leighton Baines.

And Birk­dale is a course that de­mands noth­ing but the best if your score­card is go­ing to be good enough. But with Fleet­wood’s game not as ra­zor sharp as he wanted, it was a day of ‘what ifs’.

He could never quite get close enough to the flag to make a birdie op­por­tu­nity a given, while his putting radar was frac­tion­ally out. He kept giv­ing him­self chances, but the ball re­fused to drop.

And then like a team that has been be­sieg­ing the op­po­si­tion goal, Fleet­wood was caught by a dou­ble sucker punch on the counter at­tack.

At the par three 12th, the crowd groaned as his ball was sucked back into a green­side bunker deeper than Bill Gates’s pock­ets and the cost to Fleet­wood was his first bo­gey.

Then on the next short hole, the 14th, he missed a small-fry putt to drop a fur­ther shot.

He was now on the ropes, but he came back fighting, watched by fel­low Ever­to­nian, boxer Tony Bellew.

He fired in a su­perb ap­proach to the par five 15th from 220 yards, and while it did not end in an ea­gle, the first red inker was am­ple com­pen­sa­tion.

He fol­lowed that up with a knock­out ap­proach to 16 and back to back birdies to get back up off the can­vas. It was a re­silient re­sponse from a player who had hoped to gate­crash the top 10 on the last day, but it still left Fleet­wood able to en­joy his first ever walk down the 18th on the Sun­day of an Open.

The re­cep­tion was warm and gen­er­ous, start­ing as he and play­ing part­ner Marc Leish­man, who had played beau­ti­fully all the way round as he rev­elled in the large gal­leries fol­low­ing the game to card a 65 and make his own way into the top 10, were still some 150 yards short of the green.

Fleet­wood’s week may not have lived up to the dreams he had of win­ning an Open as a young boy start­ing out in golf on his lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal course, but it is fair to say the crowd still loved you, baby!

Tommy Fleet­wood makes his way down the 18th fair­way on the fi­nal day of the Open

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.