Fifteen years ago, the wind was blowing over the links of Royal Birkdale just as strong as it will be this week. But little else has stayed the same; clubs have become more advanced, balls fly further and players’ gym routines... well, they now have gym routines.
Another marked difference is that a certain pre-adolescent golfer will not have to sneak on to the ultra-private venue, that is Birkdale, when the members aren’t looking. Tommy Fleetwood will be strolling down the fairways this week, with a calm confidence that he is in the form of his life.
His astronomical rise in the rankings - 170 places since October - has been akin to that of his penetrating ball flight. He is unwavering, tenacious, impressive.
Holding off Johnson, Stenson and Garcia in Abu Dhabi, he got his season off to an incredible start. Fleetwood then followed up with a 2nd at the WGC in Mexico (won by DJ), 2nd at the Shenzhen in China (losing in a playoff to Wiesberger), and a final round duel with the mighty Brooks Koepka, at Erin Hills, in the US Open.
Fast forward to the European Tour Rolex Series event, the French Open, and Fleetwood was imperious. The Southport native didn’t miss a shot in his final round 66, maintaining complete calm, as he has done all year.
After the win, he noted;
“Life’s just been great. I’m engaged, expecting a baby, my fiancée is my manager, my caddie’s one of my best mates in the world. Thommo, I think, is the best coach in the world – everybody around me I have really strong relationships with and when you enjoy doing your job that’s a massive positive.”
Fleetwood is 7th favourite with the bookies and we wouldn’t bet against him. Playing the golf of his life, and on a course that his Dad walks the dog around every day.
It will be a different experience for him as he walks down the fairways; fans wildly cheering him on, rather than being chased away as a plucky youngster.
Who do you think will win?