Ball-striker Fleetwood goes low without best stuff at The Open
July 20, 2018
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
- Tommy Fleetwood carded a bogey-free, 6-under 65 in the second round at The Open on Friday. (David Cannon/Getty Images)
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- Tommy Fleetwood brings to mind some of the best ball-strikers of yesteryear. The Englishman, with his long locks and aggressive hip turn through impact, looks like a brown-haired version of a young Johnny Miller. He harkens back to the days before space-age technology infiltrated the game, when players flushed unforgiving forged blades and hit wound balls that flew off-line after the slightest mis-hit.
Fleetwood is such a good ballstriker, in fact, that he was able to shoot the best round of this Open Championship without his best stuff.
Fleetwood’s 6-under 65 on Friday was the low score, and first bogey-free round, thus far at Carnoustie. He sits at 5-under 137 through 36 holes. Earlier this summer, England was two victories from winning its first World Cup since 1966. Now Fleetwood is two rounds from bringing the Claret Jug back to his homeland for the first time since Nick Faldo’s win at Muirfield in 1992.
Fleetwood will have to find his swing first.
“Normally, when you play great you know where the ball is going,” Fleetwood said. “A lot of the shots, I was just looking up, and I was really happy that they were going straight. I didn’t feel fully confident and fully comfortable with my swing.”
Fleetwood has hit 27 of 36 greens this week, but he headed to the range for a late-afternoon practice session after finishing his first-round 72 with bogeys on 16 and 17. He signed his scorecard around 5:30 p.m., then spent an hour on the driving range with his coach and caddie to “neutralize” his swing. His swing was too short and under the plane, leading to shots pushed right of his target.
“Sometimes … you’ve just got to hit balls and work your way into some good swings,” Fleetwood said.
Even though it would help his competition, he was hopeful that the rain would cease so he could head to the range Friday for another post-round practice session.Normally, when you play great you know where the ball is going. A lot of the shots, I was just looking up, and I was really happy that they were going straight. I didn’t feel fully confident and fully comfortable with my swing.
Thursday’s extra work set the stage for Fleetwood’s latest impressive performance in a major. He is coming off a second-place finish at Shinnecock Hills, where he barely missed a birdie putt for 62 and finished one shot behind Brooks Koepka. Shinnecock and Carnoustie are two of the toughest venues in their respective rotas, but Fleetwood is 12 under par over his past 54 holes on those courses.
Fleetwood is in contention at Carnoustie despite playing in the tougher half of the draw, as well. The late-early players got Thursday’s strongest breezes and Friday’s heaviest rain. Only Zach Johnson (69-67) posted a lower score from their half of the field.
“Our side of the draw, we had to sort of tough it out a little bit,” Rory McIlroy said after shooting consecutive 69s.
Fleetwood is unprecedented territory at The Open. He may have grown up around the corner from Royal Birkdale, but he has found more success in the Open held across the Atlantic. He finished fourth at Erin Hills before this year’s runner-up.
Last year’s T27 at Royal Birkdale was Fleetwood’s best finish in four Open Championships. He missed the cut in his first three starts in golf’s oldest championship.
He owns the course record at Carnoustie, though, after shooting 63 in last year’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. That is the European Tour’s version of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. The event is held on three courses and conditions are easier to ensure the amateurs can get around in a timely fashion.
Friday’s round was just his fourth sub-par score in 10 rounds at The Open, and was his lowest ever at this championship.
“It’s no course record, but it will do,” Fleetwood said. “It was a spirited effort today.”