Tommy Fleetwood has become accustomed to being viewed as a favourite to lift the Claret Jug in the last two years during his rapid climb up the world rankings.
The Southport golfer has been tipped by many of his fellow professionals to become the first Englishman to win the Open since Nick Faldo clinched the title in 1992.
But while he enjoyed his best-ever performance in five Open appearances at Carnoustie last year when he finished in a tie for 12th, that maiden major title still eluded him.
Another opportunity will present itself at Royal Portrush this year and Fleetwood has revealed on BBC podcast The Cut that the Claret Jug is the prize he wants more than any other.
“The Open is the ultimate one I would like to win,” said Fleetwood, after being asked his major preferences. “If I wanted to win one major, it would have to be The Open.”
And as he prepares for his latest attempt at Open glory in July, here’s everything you need to know about Fleetwood’s quest to become Champion Golfer of the Year.
Amateur potential realised
Fleetwood enjoyed a distinguished amateur career, which included wins in the Scottish Amateur Stroke Play Championship in 2009 and the English Amateur the following year.
He turned professional in 2010 and made his European Tour debut at the Czech Open but he had a hit-and-miss first season – only retaining his playing rights in the last tournament of the season.
His maiden title eventually arrived in 2013 at the Johnnie Walker Championship in Gleneagles, where he held his nerve to win a three-man sudden death playoff.
But it wasn’t until 2017 that Fleetwood began to really make his impact, winning his second European Tour event with a memorable victory at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
And victory in the French Open plus a run of five top-10 finishes in his previous six events further enhanced his Claret Jug credentials ahead of The 146th Open at Royal Birkdale.
His ranking also improved as a result of his scintillating form, rising from 99th in the world rankings at the start of the year into the world top 20 by the end of 2017.
Fleetwood’s record in The Open had not been one to write home about before he rocked up at Royal Birkdale in 2017, having missed the cut in all three of his previous appearances.
But a fourth-placed finish at the US Open, along with being the home favourite, resulted in Fleetwood experiencing a whole new different level of expectation in Southport.
An opening round of 76 curtailed his chances before he rallied to finish in a tie for 27th after making the cut – and Fleetwood admitted afterwards it was a week he will never forget.
“I didn’t get off to the start I wanted but it was a very special experience,” he reflected. “It is not very often you get to play an Open where you grew up.
“I had gone into the event in form and I happened to be the face of the Open in my hometown. I was very lucky to experience that.
“Expectation is a funny thing. I hadn’t made the cut in an Open before and I was one of the favourites to win. That was a strange combination.”
Having ended 2017 by winning the European Tour season-long Race to Dubai, Fleetwood made a successful start to the 2018 by winning the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
He followed that up with his best Masters finish (T17) before coming within a whisker of winning his first major title at the US Open, finishing runner-up to Brooks Koepka at Shinnecock Hills.
Fleetwood’s final round of 63 tied the event’s single round scoring record and convinced many – including the likes of Jordan Spieth and Tom Watson – his time would come at Carnoustie.
Once again, he did not get off to the best of starts as a one-over 72 left him six off the lead but he rocketed up the table on Friday with an impressive 65 to sit in a tie for third.
His challenge remained on course after moving day, with a level-par 71 keeping him in the mix, before he eventually finished in a tie for 12th after a final round of 70.
The title ultimately went to Francesco Molinari, who he teamed up with so successfully for Europe’s 2018 Ryder Cup triumph, but don’t be surprised if 2019 is finally Fleetwood’s year.