Fleetwood going to Carnoustie with confidence
Everything Pep Guardiola touches turns to gold this year and Tommy Fleetwood is hoping some of that magic rubs off on him as he chases his first major championship this summer.
Manchester City manager Guardiola stayed true to his word when he said he would play golf instead of watching Manchester United face West Brom last week – on the day a United loss confirmed his side as Premier League champions.
But instead of a quiet round, he invited four-time European Tour winner Fleetwood along at Sandiway Golf Club and the pair celebrated City’s title win after the Baggies upset the Red Devils with a 1-0 victory.
“It is the first time I have ever been on Match of the Day! It was brilliant, we clicked a little bit and it was the first time we played golf together,” Fleetwood said.
“I saw him that night and celebrated winning the league with him a little bit but it was really cool – not something you ever normally get to do.”
It was a rare Sunday afternoon off for Fleetwood, who has emerged as one of the best players in the world over the last 12 months – with three tour wins and the coveted Race to Dubai title.
But now the 27-year-old has his sights set on a major, and there is no place better than Carnoustie in July – the setting for The 147th Open Championship.
It may be three months until the world’s best players descend on Angus but the excitement is already building with a number of big names fit and firing this season, including Tiger Woods.
With injury taking Woods away from golf for much of the last three years, the likes of Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy have taken over.
But Woods' comeback has gripped the game and he looks better than he has done in years – even if he struggled while playing alongside Fleetwood during the first two rounds at the Masters.
Still, the cameras and patrons flocked to watch every moment but Fleetwood was not overawed – despite growing up watching the 42-year-old American great.
“The first ever Masters I watched was in 1997 and that was just when he was on the scene and doing all of his Tiger Woods dominance,” he said.
“Now, 21 years on and I am there and playing with him at the Masters so I made a point two or three times to take a step back and take it all in.”
“If you had not met Tiger Woods before and did not know who he was before shaking hands with him on the tee, you would have walked off thinking ‘I really enjoyed playing with him’. He does everything right. He plays at a lovely pace and talks if you want to talk, he was really nice to play with and being part of that atmosphere is incredible.”
“Tiger’s return to the Masters is the biggest thing in the world and as much as I am focussing on my own stuff, you have to stop and think ‘this is really cool’.”
If Augusta, where he has won four times, is where Woods feels right at home then a case can be made for Carnoustie being Fleetwood’s equivalent.
The Angus course is a true golfing test but Fleetwood tamed it memorably last summer with a new course record.
In its 168-year history, no-one has shot a score as low as the Southport man’s incredible 63 during the Dunhill Links Championship. His playing partner that day, Rory McIlroy, needed eight more to get round.
Just a week before, Fleetwood was cherishing the moment he became a father for the first time, to son Franklin – and his round finished off the perfect seven days.
This year he is hoping for similar, with the Claret Jug in his sights.
“I am going to go to Carnoustie with confidence because the last shot I hit there was to get the course record, so it will be nice,” he added.
“It is such a hard course. When The Open is on, the weather always play such a big part. If it is a calm day then any course is very playable but Carnoustie has certain holes that are so tough and ruthless regardless. The bunkers just suck you in. For some reason it is so just so hard to miss them and you have to have a really good gameplan.”
“Golf is in such a great place at the moment and Tiger and Phil [Mickelson] are the big stories at the moment. I am in the group of players behind, trying to take over.”
Tommy Fleetwood is an Ambassador of The 147th Open and with some ticket categories sold out you are advised to book now to avoid disappointment. Save up to £40 on your tickets if you buy before midnight on 30 April. Don’t miss the cut, visit TheOpen.com/Tickets for full information.