In just six years Tommy Fleetwood has made the transition from European Challenge Tour winner to Race to Dubai leader, securing his position at golf’s top table after a string of impressive victories this season.
But it all started for the Englishman in Almaty in 2011, where he claimed his first professional title with an outstanding display at the Kazakhstan Open.
The then 20 year old had long been tipped for stardom after a stellar amateur career, and he showed glimpses of the star quality that has since seen the Southport native rise as high as 14th place in the Official World Golf Ranking.
After arriving at the 18th tee during the final round level with Norway’s Knut Borsheim, Fleetwood moved clear by holing a stunning 30-foot putt for birdie – sealing a two-shot triumph after Borsheim made bogey.
Now a three-time winner on the European Tour and a main stay in the world’s top 20, Fleetwood still considers his sole Challenge Tour triumph a life-changing victory.
“It’s that one tournament that can change your year really and everybody knows it’s coming,” he said. “I finished second in the Rolex the week before it so I was nowhere near getting my European Tour card before those two weeks.
“Kazakhstan was a big week. I had my dad caddying and once you’ve won it you know you’re on the European Tour, and with those two weeks I went from about 33rd in the Rankings to first, so it’s a prime example of how quickly things can turn around.
“In Kazakhstan, it’s always been on good courses – I think I came 11th the first year, in just my third event as a pro, and then the next year I played it I won, and it is massive.
“It is the Challenge Tour Major and everybody puts so much pressure and so much emphasis on it – it’s the one that stands out and I was just lucky enough to peak at the right time.
“It was awesome having my dad there. We had a fair few arguments over the course of the week, which we always do – we argued on the 17th in fact, having a full-on argument with two holes to play and leading by one.
“He wanted me to go for it out of the bunker on 17 when I had no shot – he thought I was giving the tournament away by not going for it, I thought I was giving it away by going for it.
“In the end I went somewhere in the middle and hit a horrendous shot, but we’d had five minutes of arguing before we hit it.
“I had two putts to win it from about 30ft on the last and I holed it and went and stood next to my dad and said, ‘how good’s this?’ and he said it was all down to him.
“We didn’t really go out partying afterwards – obviously my dad was with me but I had the winner’s bug and was up at about four o’clock to practise, I couldn’t help it I was so excited.”
Following his Kazakhstan triumph Fleetwood has 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, making Fleetwood only the second multiple winner on the European Tour so far this season after Sergio Garcia.
Fleetwood also has four other top fives this term including at the WGC - Mexico Championship and US Open Championship, which has taken the 26 year old to first place in the Race to Dubai Rankings.
It is safe to say that Fleetwood is setting the golfing world alight – but his rise to the top started in Kazakhstan.