Fleetwood vows to learn from time in spotlight

The 28-year-old fought back to make the cut at the Open two years ago

Fleetwood vows to learn from time in spotlight
Tommy Fleetwood hosts the British Masters at Hillside this week (Steven Paston/PA)

Tommy Fleetwood has vowed to learn from his spell in the spotlight before the 2017 Open and hopes hosting duties at this week’s Betfred British Masters could even boost his bid for a first major title.

Southport-born Fleetwood was among the star attractions at the Open at Royal Birkdale two years ago and admitted the pressure of playing in front of massive crowds on home soil played a part in his opening round of 76.

The 28-year-old fought back to make the cut and eventually finished 27th and is determined to put on a similarly good performance this week at Hillside, despite the extra responsibilities of being the tournament host and with the US PGA Championship at Bethpage around the corner.

“I think first and foremost I was happy to keep the tournament on the schedule,” Fleetwood said of an event which had been in doubt following the end of a four-year deal with Sky Sports.

“I think that was the most important thing and I was happy to be part of that, at whatever time that is. I get an extra week in my own bed and I’m not ever going to complain about that.

“I normally have a week off before the majors and I haven’t won one yet so who knows, maybe playing the British Masters the week before might be the turning point.”

Speaking about the 2017 Open, Fleetwood added: “That was the biggest crowds I’ve ever seen and not everybody gets that feeling, playing an Open in your home town. I played with Justin Rose on the Saturday and we had everybody on the golf course following us.

Fleetwood vows to learn from time in spotlight
England’s Tommy Fleetwood and England’s Justin Rose during day three of The Open Championship 2017 at Royal Birkdale Golf Club, Southport (Richard Sellers/PA)

“I loved it and I did learn things from that. I wanted to do well so badly and I think a lot of the time when we play, it’s not necessarily nerves that send you off track. It’s actually effort and you try so hard and that’s where I can go wrong a little bit, just putting that extra effort in when you need to keep it flowing and simple.

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“At the end of the day, I’m not here just to host. I’m loving doing that and really proud that I’ve got my face to a tournament, but still I want to prepare as well as I can and hopefully put on a good show.

“It’s a different feeling coming to the course, not that I play here loads because I don’t get the time, but I normally just drive in the car park, get the clubs out the boot of the car and just go wing it off the first tee.”

Fleetwood famously had to sneak on to Royal Birkdale as a child but later became a member at Hillside, although his caddie Ian Finnis enjoys bragging rights over his boss at the highly-rated course.

Asked what his best score at Hillside is, Fleetwood said: “I don’t know, actually. I normally play a pairs match and don’t keep score. But my caddie has shot 63. He’ll be happy I told everybody that. Surprised he’s not told you already.”

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