Tuesday, 07 May 2019
Tommy Fleetwood  (Getty Images)
Tommy Fleetwood (Getty Images)

Tommy Fleetwood will add another string to his already impressive bow when he hosts this week's Betfred British Masters at Hillside Golf Club in his native Southport.

After climbing to the top of the Scratch Players World Amateur Rankings and winning the European Challenge Tour at the age of just 20, Fleetwood's fledgling CV looked pretty good before he even graduated to the European Tour.

And he has gone from strength to strength since then, winning four European Tour titles, claiming the Race to Dubai in 2017 and becoming a Ryder Cup hero alongside his good friend and 'Moliwood' partner Francesco Molinari on his debut in France last year.

But it has not all been plain sailing for Fleetwood, who has overcome some serious adversity to get where he is now.

Early success and European Tour beginnings

Fleetwood gave the world a glimpse of what he was capable of during a successful amateur career which saw him finish as the runner-up at the 2008 Amateur Championship, represent Great Britain & Ireland at the Walker Cup in 2009 and top the Scratch Players World Amateur Rankings before turning professional in 2010.

Fleetwood's journey to the European Tour was complete when he became the youngest player to win the Challenge Tour Rankings in 2011, thanks in no small part to his win at the Kazakhstan Open.

The Englishman geared up for his rookie European Tour campaign with a strong performance at the 2011 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, finishing in a share of fifth place ahead of the conclusion of the Challenge Tour season.

But things did not go according to plan for Fleetwood in his first full season and he required a good result at the 2012 SA Open Championship - his last event of the campaign - to keep his card, finishing joint sixth that week and 109th on the Race to Dubai.

Fleetwood's maiden European Tour win soon came along at the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles in August 2013 as he saw off Stephen Gallacher and Ricardo Gonzalez in a play-off.

Swing struggles and trying to put them right

As far as his playing privileges are concerned, Fleetwood has not had any more close shaves since 2012, qualifying for the season finale in Dubai in every subsequent year - but there have still been several significant hurdles for him to overcome on his journey to becoming a household name.

Speaking on the Life on Tour podcast presented by Hilton last year, Fleetwood revealed Alan Thompson - a coach with whom he has worked on and off since he was a boy - thought he was "too far gone" when Fleetwood reached out to him following a series of swing troubles in 2015 and 2016.

I texted my dad, and said 'This is shocking. I've got no idea where it's going. I've got no hope and I don't know what to do.' - Tommy Fleetwood

He said: "I was in China. I was having a practice round and it was just a regular practice round at the time where I couldn't keep it on the golf course. I was just a bit fed up really. So I texted my dad, and said 'This is shocking. I've got no idea where it's going. I've got no hope and I don't know what to do.'

"He texted back saying 'You should go back to Thommo because he is the only person who knows your swing better than I do'.

"I went to see Thommo at his range. I had two hours with him on the range and after two hours I was hitting it decent.

"There's a tee about 20 yards away and he said 'Just before we go, let's just hit a couple of shots on the course off the tee'. So I stood on the tee with a four iron - five shots were off the planet right into this lake. I had a yip in my swing so as soon as I stood on the golf course I couldn't do it.

"Thommo has told me since - he didn't tell me at the time - he thought then or later at Wentworth when I was still struggling and we'd been working for a month 'I think you might be done. I think he's too far gone'."

Fleetwood turned to close friend Ian Finnis - who has been his caddie ever since - and it wasn't long before his fortunes improved.

After missing the cut at The Open Championship in 2016, Fleetwood recorded top ten finishes at the KLM Open, Italian Open, British Masters and the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.

Rise to Race to Dubai champion

Fleetwood proved his troubles were behind him when he began his 2017 campaign with a top three at the Hong Kong Open before claiming his second European Tour title in his next event at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

The momentum continued to build as he finished second at the WGC-Mexico Championship and Shenzhen International before coming fourth at the U.S. Open Championship - and it wasn't long before he was back in the winner's circle.

Fleetwood became the second winner of a Rolex Series event when he secured the HNA Open de France title at the host venue for the following year's Ryder Cup.

He went on to record nine more top 30s on his way to pipping Justin Rose to the Race to Dubai title.

After clinching the Harry Vardon Trophy, Fleetwood said: "The achievement of winning a year-long accomplishment is massive and it holds a lot of respect amongst your peers and the players.

"It shows the level of consistency and the amount I've improved as a player and as a person."

Global star and Ryder Cup hero

History repeated itself in 2018 as Fleetwood secured the first successful title defence of his career at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA, seeing off competition from the likes of Ross Fisher, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Rory McIlroy to win his fourth European Tour title.

Fleetwood then finished in the top 25 at his next six events - including the Masters Tournament, the WGC - Mexico Championship and the BMW PGA Championship before finishing second behind Brooks Koepka at the U.S. Open courtesy of a historic 63 in the final round at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club.

A series of strong performances on some of golf's biggest stages established Fleetwood as one of the world's best players ahead of a maiden appearance at the 2018 Ryder Cup in France.

And he certainly did not disappoint, striking up a fruitful partnership with Molinari as they became the first European pair to win all four of their matches together.

After experiencing the extreme high of helping Europe to victory over the United States, Fleetwood picked up where he left off on the European Tour, finishing in a tie for second at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship before further top tens at the British Masters, WGC - HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open kept his narrow hopes of defending his Race to Dubai crown alive.

He was unable to overhaul Molinari, who went on to cap a remarkable season by finishing as European Number One, but it is fair to say that Southport's Fleetwood is well and truly on the map.

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