PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – With a slight swagger and long hair reminiscent of football icon Joe Namath, Tommy Fleetwood showed his bottle, as they say in his native England, on Sunday at the Honda Classic.
Two strokes out of the lead while standing in the fairway on PGA National’s 18th hole, Fleetwood knew that he needed to make eagle to get into a possible playoff.
With 262 yards to the hole and water along the right side, Fleetwood took out a 5-wood and drew his ball into a greenside bunker, from which he got up and down for a birdie. Ultimately, Fleetwood ended up two shots out of a playoff with Luke List and eventual winner Justin Thomas (scores). Fleetwood placed fourth, his third finish of sixth or better in four worldwide starts in 2018.
© GOLFFILE/TYRONE WINFIELD
Tommy Fleetwood adds another top worldwide finish.
As any amateur golfer would attest, exorcising those mental demons to be able to execute that kind of a shot is hard enough. Fleetwood, a first-year PGA Tour member, said that FedEx Cup points and prize money never crossed his mind as he and caddie Ian Finnis decided to hit the shot.
“You don’t win the other way,” said Fleetwood, who matched his career-best effort in America, at last year’s U.S. Open. “You've got to give yourself a chance to do it, and if you're going to do it, you’ve got to hit that shot.”
For Fleetwood, a four-time winner on the European Tour, golf never has been any other way in staying true to himself.
“It's all how you deal with the pressure,” said Fleetwood, 27, who became a father and married his agent, Clare Craig, late last year. “It's all how you feel. I've always felt it doesn't matter whether you play good or bad; it's how you feel inside yourself and how you go about it on a Sunday. And the more you get in them situations, the more you deal with the nerves and the anxiety or the adrenaline and you just learn about yourself and how to deal with it.”
That type of attitude will be a big obstacle for the U.S. against Europe in the Ryder Cup on Sept. 28-30 in France. New European blood such as Fleetwood and Alex Noren will be mixed into a strong core group that will include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson.
For a final postscript, Fleetwood won the HNA French Open last year at Le Golf National, the host venue for this year’s Ryder Cup.
Good luck, USA.
Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @AlexMiceli