Tommy Fleetwood shone on the tougher side of the draw during day one of The 149th Open and believes he is now a step closer to accomplishing his dream of lifting the Claret Jug.
In the blustery afternoon conditions at Royal St George’s, Fleetwood battled hard to card a three-under round of 67 – notching five birdies and two bogeys to sit in the top ten after day one, just three shots off the lead.
Each of those two bogeys was followed up by a birdie within the next two holes, while the 30-year-old also played the par-4 18th perfectly to record a morale-boosting three to finish his round.
As he looks to become the first English winner of The Open since 1992, Fleetwood acknowledged that while you can’t win the Claret Jug on the opening day, you can lose it, making his performance in testing conditions all the more pleasing.
“It gives me confidence that I played really, really well, as well as I thought I did, to shoot that score,” he explained.
“You just take what you get in The Open and hopefully you can make the most of it. I felt like I hit a lot of solid golf shots, I made a couple of really good up-and-downs and I putted well.
“I did a lot of things well and to get around in three-under from the harder side of the draw leaves a nice feeling going into tomorrow. And you hope that throughout the week you can get the good side at some point.
“[A birdie on 18] leaves you feeling great about the day. It was just a boost to the end of what was already a really, really good day.
“I love The Open so much. I love links golf, I love the history of this event and it's been a long time since an Englishman has won The Open.
“I would love to be the next one and it brings an amazing opportunity to accomplish a dream.”
RORY FINISHES WITH A FLOURISH
While Fleetwood was putting himself right in contention, another high-profile afternoon starter, Rory McIlroy, was fighting not to drift too far down the leaderboard.
Despite a birdie at the 1st, the Northern Irishman found himself two-over after 13 holes – thanks largely to three consecutive bogeys on holes 5 to 7 – before finishing strongly with birdies at 14 and 18 to scrap his way to level par.
It may not have been the round that the 2014 Champion Golfer dreamed of at the start of the day but to finish just six strokes behind leader Louis Oosthuizen given the tough conditions allowed the 32-year-old to find an element of solace.
“I’m really happy with that finish,” explained McIlroy. “It was a tricky afternoon. The conditions got pretty rough there in the middle of the round.
“The wind got up and I made a few bogeys in a row, so sort of said to myself at the turn if I could get back to even par for the day I would be happy.
“To birdie the last hole and get back to even par, it's nice to finish like that. More mentally than anything else and obviously it’s one shot closer to the lead.
“Just to battle back – I was two-over through 7 after getting off to a good start – so to battle back and shoot even par, play the last, whatever it is, 11 holes in two-under, I was pretty pleased with that in those conditions.
“I’m looking forward to getting back out there tomorrow.”