Tommy Fleetwood nearly calls his shot, finishes runner-up at U.S. Open

Jun 17, 2018; Southampton, NY, USA; Tommy Fleetwood and caddie Ian Finnis arrive on the eighteenth green during the final round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Shinnecock Hills GC - Shinnecock Hills Golf C. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports

Tommy Fleetwood nearly calls his shot, finishes runner-up at U.S. Open

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Tommy Fleetwood nearly calls his shot, finishes runner-up at U.S. Open

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Caddie Ian Finnis was sitting at a table at a Starbucks early Sunday morning, marking the final-round hole locations in his yardage book, when his boss, Tommy Fleetwood, texted him.

Fleetwood’s message to Finnis: “I’m going to break Johnny Miller’s record today.”

Later that day at Shinnecock Hills, Fleetwood teed off at 12:01 p.m. with 13 pairings behind him and nearly two-and-a-half hours before the final tee time. He made a fierce charge at not only the U.S. Open scoring record of 63, but the championship, as well.

At 7 under for his round, Fleetwood hit a beautiful 6-iron from 196 yards to inside of nine feet at the par-4 18th hole. He then turned to Finnis as they walked toward the green and said of Miller, “I hope he’s watching this.”

As the crowd in the 18th grandstand started chanting the Englishman’s name – “Fleet-wood! Fleet-wood!” – Fleetwood and Finnis carefully studied the birdie putt. Not much in it, they agreed.

He wanted a 62

As Fleetwood struck the putt, he had 62 in mind. But the ball had other plans, diving right on its way toward the hole and missing low.

“It would’ve been the best thing ever if he holed it,” Finnis said.

Fleetwood nearly had called his shot but instead settled for the sixth 63 in U.S. Open history and the fifth since Miller shot the number in the final round of the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont.

“The putt on 18, I actually wanted it more for the 62 at the time, and then it became a thing at the tournament,” said Fleetwood, who waited more than three hours before his 2-over score came up a shot shy of back-to-back U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka.

“Obviously, that’s the putt that will play on your mind because that was the last shot you hit and that was your chance. But I missed some putts in the week. I made some putts. … And your score is your score.

“And for me, just getting that close to winning a major again, I think that is the ultimate thing I’ll take from it.”

Tommy Fleetwood became only the sixth player in U.S. Open history to shoot a 63 with his final-round performance at Shinnecock Hills. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Tommy Fleetwood became only the sixth player in U.S. Open history to shoot a 63 with his final-round performance at Shinnecock Hills. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

At 27 years old, Fleetwood is becoming a real threat at these major championships. He flipped that switch last summer at Erin Hills, finishing fourth. He then tied for 27th after a poor start in the 2017 British Open at Royal Birkdale, and two months ago notched his best Masters finish, a T-17.

What happened Sunday at Shinnecock Hills was further proof.

“I think he’s always believed he has what it takes, but he’s actually doing it now,” said Finnis, who has known Fleetwood since his amateur days. “He’ll have multiple chances to win majors because he’s got a pair of bollocks, basically, under pressure.”

Fleetwood followed Friday’s dazzling 4-under 66 with a third-round 78 and began Sunday six shots off the lead and with little pressure.

But that quickly changed as the putts started falling.

Fleetwood drained a 60-footer for his first birdie at the par-3 second, and followed with a 20-foot birdie putt at the par-4 third. He turned in 3-under 32 before rattling off four consecutive birdies, beginning at the par-4 12th. Three of those birdies came from outside of 17 feet, including the last one, a 30-footer on the par-4 15th.

“He never hit one bad shot,” Finnis said. “He was hitting it literally to within a foot of where he was aiming.”

Eventually, Fleetwood’s shot at history came up just short, as he missed three putts inside of 20 feet coming in. But he still had hope of hoisting a trophy.

After his round Fleetwood took a seat in front of a television in the players’ grill room and – with his infant son, Frankie, on his lap – watched his name inch closer to the lead.

Yet Koepka, with one clutch up-and-down after another, never let Fleetwood back in it.

“I just always felt like I was one shy,” Fleetwood said, “and then Brooks kept giving me that little bit of hope and then holing a putt just to stab you in the stomach a little bit.”

Fleetwood moves up to No. 10 in OWGR

Fleetwood didn’t leave Long Island with an uneasy feeling, though. Quite the opposite. He relishes these tough major tests because they serve as a barometer for how he stacks up against the best players in the world.

After his best major finish Sunday, Fleetwood was set to move to a career-best 10th in the Official World Golf Ranking. He also further improved his chances of making his first European Ryder Cup team.

There’s no doubt that Fleetwood is one of world’s elite.

“He’s got a wonderful game,” Justin Rose said. “I love the way he hits the golf ball. There’s things I emulate when I watch him play. I love the way he compresses it, strikes it. But more so, he’s got great temperament and I think that will stand in good stead.”

Perhaps as soon as next month at Carnoustie. Fleetwood has nothing left to prove in majors, with a glaring exception.

“There’s only one thing I can do from here,” Fleetwood said, “and that’s win one.” Gwk

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