Fleetwood easy with the pressure of home support
Tommy Fleetwood believes he knows what it takes should he get into contention at this week's Open at Royal Birkdale.
Local lad Fleetwood arrives at a course he used to sneak onto as a youngster in red-hot form, having risen 170 places up the world rankings with some attention-grabbing performances.
He won the Abu Dhabi Championship and the recent Open de France but it's his fourth place at the US Open that has really prepared him for the pressure-cooker atmosphere of this week.
Fleetwood watched Brooks Koepka from close range as he won his maiden major title, playing with the American in the final group at Erin Hills. And it taught him a valuable lesson about how to cope with pressure at its most intense.
"It's the first time I've contended in a major and it felt right. I felt comfortable and I enjoyed it. That's the one thing I'm taking away, should the chance ever come again," he said.
"Of course I was nervous but I wasn't out of control."
Fleetwood will play with Koepka again on Thursday and Friday but this time he'll be the star attraction. He used to sneak onto this course as a youngster, taking a few wedge shots before members came into view.
His father still walks the family dog here and Fleetwood knows the galleries, packed with family and friends, come in hope and expectation.
"I don't feel any extra pressure, it's a different experience but it's a nice one, I'll never have had more support," he added.
"I'd much rather be in this position where people might be talking about me as a contender than turning up and being a no show.
"Recent results have clearly put me in the eye and made people talk about me as a chance but these are the best players in the world.
"The pressure doesn't affect me in any way, it's very nice and makes me smile. I've thought about winning The Open since I was five years old, so thinking about it another few days isn't going to make any difference to me."
It's nearly 20 years since a young Fleetwood, aged just seven, patiently queued for players' autographs when the Open visited in 1998 when Mark O'Meara dramatically won the Claret Jug.
Ten years on and he couldn't bear to watch, having lost in the final of the Amateur Championship a few weeks earlier, meaning he fell just short of qualifying.
"In 1998 I remember Tiger Woods walking past me. That was the first time I'd ever seen that aura that surrounded him at that time," he recalls. "I didn't get many autographs because I spent the time walking and faking them in my little book!
"Last time I was a match away, which was really upsetting. I didn't come to the course but stayed at home and didn't watch much of it because I was in a sulk."
Fleetwood - now 26 - certainly appears at peace with himself, insisting that whatever happens in the days ahead it won't define him.
"Nothing really scares me and I'm really happy off the course. I think my life is fantastic and that plays a massive part in how you feel and how you deal with things," he added.
"I do have a very good psychologist that I work with and these days my time management has improved. I meditate a lot and I've started know myself better.
"I feel fine coming into this week but, if it doesn't happen, I'll just walk off Friday and it will be what it is. I'll be gutted for a day or two but then after start practicing again.
"Whatever happens I'm going to go home and everything is going to be as good as it's ever been. They'll always be ups and down and you just have to take this game in your stride."
The 146th Open takes place from 16-23 July at Royal Birkdale. Tickets can be purchased on the gates or at www.TheOpen.com/tickets