March 22 2018

Tommy Fleetwood not feeling the pressure on hometown return

March 22 2018, 04:07 | Irvin Gilbert

"You'd take an Open Championship anywhere but Royal Birkdale would be extra special - a real full-circle moment".

"My face is on a lot of lamp posts", Fleetwood says with a broad grin.

'I got recognised in Altrincham Market the other day, ' he revealed.

Before I go any further I just want to make one thing very clear: I have nothing at all against Tommy Fleetwood.

"The banners will be off in a couple of weeks, so best not get used to it too much". What's more, both are relatively local to Royal Birkdale. I'm not going to be the person to doubt Rory McIlroy in a major, especially an Open Championship. Fleetwood used to sneak on to Birkdale as a youngster and says that he can not wait to tee-off on his home-town course. "Recent results have clearly put me in the eye and made people talk about me as a chance".

Royal Birkdale's fairways are renowned for being tight and punishing for those who make mistakes, thus, ensuring accurate and precise ball-striking will be rewarded with opportunities to go under-par. It's been up there for a while. "It's been a fun year for Spanish sport with [Gabrine] Muguruza winning Wimbledon and obviously Rafa [Nadal] winning Roland Garros and it's been great for Spanish golf also".

"I've been going through that one a few times since", Stenson said. That's lovely. It's very touching actually.

'In some ways I look back and I try to model it, as well - just the freedom I had that particular week, the confidence I had in my short game, the innocence in which I played the game, I think, is still a model.

That being said, it doesn't have to be so, but I guess the age of the winners kind of speak that language. It is unlikely that the course will play so differently this year that making birdies becomes more important than avoiding bogeys.

Even though this is my 27th Open Championship, trust me the buzz, the nerves, and the excitement, are still strong. The golf course is going to play very long, very hard.

Previous year we saw a titanic tussle between Swede Henrik Stenson and American Phil Mickelson, the pair where so far ahead of the field that the camera men had little need to divert their attention anywhere other than the final playing pair. It's been traveling with me around the world and it also brings a lot of smiles to enthusiastic golfers around the world when they get to hold it and take pictures with the Claret Jug. But we'll see how it plays throughout the week. Eight of the last 10 British Open champions were 35 or older. "I think the jet ski is probably the goofiest and most fun we've had with it".

The main tournament is from Thursday 20 July to Sunday 23 July. In 2014, Rory McIlroy came away a victor at Hoylake with a score of 17 under par.

McIlroy will tee off with Dustin Johnson, the world number one, and Charl Schwartzel at 2.48pm at Royal Birkdale on Thursday.

"It has been nice to watch and be around during the process". He's keeping his feet on the ground, though, which won't come as a surprise to anyone who witnessed him either winning the 2009 Scottish Open Stroke-Play Championship at Murcar Links or his maiden professional victory in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles four years later.

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