Following another impressive display at the WGC-Mexico Championship, where he finished in the top 15, reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood has broken into the top ten in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time, but it’s not always been an easy journey into world golf’s top tier for the Englishman.
Since being crowned European Tour Number One in Dubai last November, Fleetwood, who has experienced plenty of highs and lows in his short career so far, has continued to excel.
Following a top-ten finish in his first European Tour start of 2018 at the UBS Hong Kong Open, the 27 year old has impressed on both his home tour and in the United States, with his Abu Dhabi victory sandwiched in between top-five performances in both the Hero World Challenge and Honda Classic.
Such outstanding early-season form means Fleetwood is now the third highest-ranked European in world golf – behind only Jon Rahm (third) and Justin Rose (fifth).
Things haven’t always been so smooth for the Southport native, though.
His Official World Golf Ranking had dropped to 188th in September 2016 – something which came as a surprise to many, including Fleetwood himself, who was seen a poster boy for English golf in his younger days having produced a number of notable amateur performances.
He rose to number one in the World Amateur Golf Rankings and played in the 2009 Walker Cup, before turning professional in 2010. Fleetwood’s smooth ascent to the European Tour continued when he became the youngest player to win the Challenge Tour Rankings in 2011, aged 20 and 290 days old. Everything was plain sailing… Or so it seemed.
Tommy had to wait two years for his first professional win to come, at the 2013 Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, with many more expected off the back of that maiden triumph.
However, the victories didn’t come, and the 12 months that followed July 2015, when Fleetwood missed the cut at the Open Championship, led him down a path to which he admits he came close to never recovering from.
In a brutally honest and insightful interview earlier this year with HSBC, ahead of the first successful title defense of his career in Abu Dhabi, Fleetwood gave a stark insight into just how much his game, and mental state, had deteriorated.
“I always felt like I would constantly progress, but it turned out that wasn’t the case,” he said.
“Struggling with your game and seeing people play really good golf that you can’t do, was something I hadn’t experienced before. It’s so easy to start trickling off in the wrong direction in this game, and I can actually pinpoint when this started happening for me.
“I shot three under in the first round of The Open in 2015, I love St Andrews, and I thought this is a great chance to really do well in a Major. The second day I turned up and I couldn’t hit it, I was horrendous. And from that day I began the downward slope for a year.”
After missing the cut at St Andrews, Fleetwood then missed four of his next five on the European Tour, and decided enough was enough.
“I text my dad and said ‘Dad, this is really bad, what do you reckon?' And he just said the only person that knows your swing as well as I do is Thommo (Alan Thompson), who was my old coach. I text him and said can I send you some of the videos of my swing.
“Then I went to work with him on the range where he works where we spent two and a half hours hitting balls. We then went onto the tee, where I took a four iron out and hit six shots in a row right and into a pond. At that point we looked at each other and he said ‘yeah, that’s pretty bad’.
“We had a month or two working together where things weren’t really improving, and he has told me since that he did actually question whether I’d gone too far down the wrong path where I might never come back from.”
Thankfully for golf fans around the world, and for Tommy himself, he did come back from those low moments, and how, with all those struggles now a distant memory for the humble Fleetwood.
Reaching the world’s top ten is just the latest stage of Fleetwood’s meteoric rise – and with the Masters Tournament starting one month today, the four-time European Tour winner will have plenty of chances to rise even higher now he is a mainstay in the biggest events around the world.
The Tommy Fleetwood story has been a fascinating one so far, but there are still many more chapters for Tommy to write.