British Open: Tommy Fleetwood is up to challenge of chasing Shane Lowry

Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

British Open: Tommy Fleetwood is up to challenge of chasing Shane Lowry

2019 British Open

British Open: Tommy Fleetwood is up to challenge of chasing Shane Lowry

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PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland – England has been waiting since 1992 for a British Open winner. It might be just 18 holes before Nick Faldo is no longer the last Englishman to kiss the old claret jug in celebration.

Tommy Fleetwood can eradicate Faldo from Open Championship trivia if he can put pressure on champion-elect Shane Lowry. A bogey free 5-under 66 has given Fleetwood the chance of winning his first major trophy.

The 28-year-old is 12 under par and needs to come from four shots behind the Irishman to win the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush. He can become the 15th English Champion Golfer of the Year if the stars align in the final round.

Justin Rose has an outside chance. He’s seven shots off the lead at 9 under. Lee Westwood is another shot back. Danny Willett is 7 under.

No one is surprised Fleetwood is in the last group at Royal Portrush on Open Sunday. He finished fourth and second respectively in the 2017 and 2018 U.S. Opens. His best British Open finish came at Carnoustie last year when he was 12th.

The affable Englishman knows he’s up against it in the final group tomorrow. The majority of the crowd is hoping Lowry can become the sixth Irishman, and first since Padraig Harrington in 2008, to win the game’s oldest championship.

In fact, from the partisan cheers at the end of the third round, you’d have thought Lowry had already won the Open Championship.

“Playing tomorrow with Shane is going to be challenging trying to control yourself in that atmosphere,” Fleetwood said. “It’s going to be harder than for the rest of the field.

“I’m very, very happy to have that challenge. If you’d said to me at the start of the day, the start of the week, the start of the year, you’re going into the last round in the last group Sunday of the Open with Shane and the crowd are not going to be with you, I’d have said that’s fine. It’s going to be another chapter in my career and I’m looking forward to it.”

There have been close calls since Faldo’s third Open victory. Ian Poulter was second in 2008. Rose was runner-up to Francesco Molinari 12 months ago. Westwood was second in 2010, and a three-putt bogey on the final hole in 2009 denied him a playoff with Tom Watson and Stewart Cink, which Cink won.

Is it England’s time? Can Fleetwood end 27 years of frustration?

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