British Open: Tommy Fleetwood isn't worried about pressure after struggle in majors

Thomas J. Russo, USA TODAY Sports

British Open: Tommy Fleetwood isn't worried about pressure after struggle in majors

2019 British Open

British Open: Tommy Fleetwood isn't worried about pressure after struggle in majors

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PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland – Tommy Fleetwood is trying to ignore the weight of expectation to win the British Open.

The Englishman arrives in Northern Ireland slightly under the radar after a season that’s come nothing close to his outstanding 2017 and 2018 campaigns.

The 28-year-old played well this year before the Masters with a T-3 in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and T-5 in the Players. Since then a T-8 in the Betfred British Masters, a tournament he hosted in his hometown of Southport, is his best effort.

His performances in the previous three majors have been poor. He was T-36 at Augusta, T-48 in the PGA Championship and T-65 in the U.S. Open. The last result is surprising considering he was fourth and second in America’s national championship in 2017 and 2018.

“A few people have mentioned that I haven’t sort of played as well as I have done over the course of two years,” Fleetwood said. “Recently the results haven’t been there. I’ve had two or three opportunities to win, and some of them were big events like the Players or Bayhill. If you knock one of those off, the year looks so, so different.

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“People always look at majors, I guess, and look at those performances, which haven’t been that great. I’ve had two such amazing years, such great years. And this one’s just been a little bit calmer and a little bit slower. But there’s still been a high level of consistency.”

The Englishman is a 28-1 shot with British bookmakers Ladbrokes to win this week. He was much lower last year after finishing runner-up to Brooks Koepka in the U.S. Open.

“You can’t really force four tournaments a year,” Fleetwood says. “When you play week in and week out with the best players in the world, every single one of the majors becomes, not really an experience: it’s an opportunity to win a major. I haven’t really been close this year.”

Francesco Molinari, Fleetwood’s Ryder Cup teammate and half of the triumphant Moliwood duo last year in France, isn’t worried about his friend.

“There’s a lot of great players out here and he’s definitely one of them, but he’s still very young,” Molinari said Monday. “I think he’s doing all the right things. He’s trusting the people around him and pushing hard to get better, and then you need just a bit of luck at the right time.”

Fleetwood was European No. 1 in 2017 and No. 3 last year. He’s a five-time European Tour winner. He played a huge part in Europe’s 2018 Ryder Cup victory with four points out of five. Those facts naturally bring huge expectations.

“Putting the urgency or putting too much pressure on yourself is not going to do yourself any favors. You just keep doing things as well as you possibly can. And hopefully, one, two, three majors, hopefully at least one comes along.

“Expectation is a good thing. It shows you’re doing a lot of good stuff. Clearly I’d rather it to be that way than people expecting it to be the other way. It’s just about managing it.”

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