Sunday, 24 December 2017
Tommy Fleetwood  (Getty Images)
Tommy Fleetwood (Getty Images)

In 2011 he topped the European Challenge Tour. In 2013 he won for the first time on the European Tour. In 2017 he finished first in the Race to Dubai. In just six years Tommy Fleetwood has made the transition from Challenge Tour winner to world beater.

For a long time Fleetwood was seen as a star in the making.

After an outstanding amateur career – he finished as a runner-up in the 2008 Amateur Championship before competing in the Walker Cup a year later – many tipped Fleetwood to make an immediate impact in the professional game.

Fleetwood did just that in 2010. Still an amateur, the baby-faced Englishman excelled on home soil in the English Challenge, firing four rounds in the 60s to finish in a share of second place.

Following victory at the English Amateur in August, Fleetwood joined the paid ranks and carried on where he left off on the Challenge Tour.

In his next five starts on Europe’s top developmental tour the then 19 year old did not miss a cut, came outside the top 20 just once, and was again in contention for a maiden professional title after finishing just one shot behind winner Carlos del Moral in the M2M Russian Challenge Cup.

A solid start for the Southport native – bring on next season. In 2011, his first full campaign as a pro, Fleetwood kicked on in a big way.

A run of top-ten and top-20 finishes saw him play his way into the prestigious Rolex Trophy, an exclusive  42-man event.

Just one round cost him in Geneva. After carding 66-65-74-65 Fleetwood once again finished in tied second, but he would not have to wait long for a first Challenge Tour win.

His next start in the Kazakhstan Open would prove to be a career-changing one. Three rounds in the 60s gave Fleetwood a two-shot lead going into the final day in Almaty, but after a mixed last round Fleetwood teed up on the 18th level with Norway’s Knut Borsheim.

Tommy Fleetwood

Showing maturity beyond his years, Fleetwood moved clear of his playing partner by holing a stunning 30-foot putt for birdie which sealed him a two-shot triumph after Borsheim made bogey.

“Kazakhstan was such a big week, I had my dad caddying and once you’ve won it you know you’re on the European Tour,” said Fleetwood after his victory.

Fleetwood did not just make it onto the European Tour, he also became the youngest player to win the Challenge Tour Rankings too, aged just 20 years and 290 years old.

Fleetwood has since been on a steady ascent to the summit of world golf.

A debut European Tour win came in just his second season on Europe’s top tier at the 2013 Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles – where he pipped Argentina’s Ricardo Gonzalez and Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher in a play-off.

Fleetwood then made history at the 2015 BMW PGA Championship, making just the third albatross in the competition’s history by holing out from the fairway with his second shot on the 552-yard par five fourth.

This year has seen the real emergence of a star with victories at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and HNA Open de France – along with near misses at the WGC – Mexico Championship and the Shenzhen International, where he lost out in a play-off to Bernd Wiesberger.

The 26 year old was also firmly in contention for a maiden Major triumph too. Having battled his way round the tricky Erin Hills for three days Fleetwood was one behind leader Brian Harman going into the final round of the U.S. Open.

Eventual champion Brooks Koepka, himself a Challenge Tour graduate in 2013, produced a flawless 67 during the final round to clinch the title but Fleetwood still covered himself in glory with a closing level par 72 – securing his best Major finish in fourth place.

That result, among others, took Fleetwood up to top spot in the Race to Dubai in July – but he had a fight on his hands to become the European Tour Number One for the first time.

With Justin Rose’s late-season flourish Fleetwood was just 256,737 points ahead of his fellow countryman going into the lucrative DP World Tour Championship.

Like in Kazakhstan in his early days, it came down to the last hole in Dubai too.

Needing to finish in outright fourth or better, Rose required an eagle at the par five 18th to win the European Tour’s Order of Merit for the second time – but he could only manage birdie.

Tommy Fleetwood

"My ultimate goal in life is to be the best player in the world," said Fleetwood after receiving the biggest accolade of his career, the Race to Dubai title.

With a Ryder Cup in Paris to come next year at Le Golf National, the site of his HNA Open de France triumph, and now a regular in all four Majors, the stage is set for Fleetwood to go on and achieve that goal.   

 

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