With close friend back on the bag, Tommy Fleetwood has his shot at U.S. Open

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With close friend back on the bag, Tommy Fleetwood has his shot at U.S. Open

PGA Tour

With close friend back on the bag, Tommy Fleetwood has his shot at U.S. Open

ERIN, Wis. – Tommy Fleetwood called his fifth shot from over the green on the closing par-5 18th “the best shot of the day.” The Englishman hadn’t been out of position all round, and suddenly found himself in a situation that could’ve turned ugly fast.

“You could keep knocking it back and forth over that green,” said Fleetwood, “staring seven or eight in the face.”

Instead, Fleetwood was grateful for the closing bogey, and heads into the final round of the 117th U.S. Open one back of leader Brian Harman. The 26-year-old’s third-round 68 put him in a tie for second with Justin Thomas (63) and Brooks Koepka (68) at 11 under.

Fleetwood and South Korea’s Si Woo Kim are the only non-Americans in the top 13. The Southport native’s long brown hair makes him easy to spot.

When Fleetwood was asked if he planned to talk to 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose, a fellow Englishman, before the final round, Fleetwood smiled and said he’d wait for Rose’s text.

While Fleetwood acknowledged that winning on Sunday at Erin Hills would be life-changing, he didn’t want to get too far ahead.

“I’ve pictured winning the U.S. Open a lot of times before,” he said. “Doing it all night is not going to help and make any difference.”

After a distinguished amateur career that included victories at the 2009 Scottish Amateur Stroke Play and 2010 English Amateur, Fleetwood’s first win on the European Tour came in 2013. But then, in an effort to reach the next level, Fleetwood changed instructors and went down the wrong path.

In 2016, he returned to his childhood coach, Alan Thompson, and rehired close friend Ian Finnis as caddie. Finnis, who looped for Fleetwood in his amateur heyday, has the complete trust of his boss when it comes to on-course decision-making.

“If I say it’s right, he’ll hit it,” said the towering Finnis, who is 10 years Fleetwood’s senior. The pair have been friends for 17 years.

“I think that can’t be underestimated,” said Fleetwood, “having your friend with you. … No matter what, that’s something when you’re always going to walk up the 18th green with your best mate.”

They celebrated together in Abu Dhabi earlier this season when Fleetwood collected his second European Tour title, and again in Mexico when he clinched a spot at the Masters.

Sunday at Erin Hills could be a walk they’ll never forget.

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