Tommy Fleetwood: ‘I’ve learned a lot from going away and coming back’

Tommy Fleetwood reckons his time away from the game has given him a newfound appreciation for tournament golf, as he played himself right into contention at the PGA Championship on Friday.

Fleetwood following up a fairly sedate opening round of 70 with a brilliant six-under-par 64 at TPC Harding Park on Friday to lie just two strokes off Li Haotong’s lead in a tie for second place.

The Southport native is seeking his first major title after finishing runner-up to Koepka in the 2018 US Open at Shinnecock Hills and second in last year’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush.

Asked how he was able to improve upon his first-round performance so dramatically, Fleetwood said: “Yesterday I actually had a decent score going and then… it was tough… the conditions were easier to start with.

“I had that bad couple of holes on 12 and 13, which, you know, on a tough day… you don’t want to give too much away, and that kind of halted progress.

“Level par wasn’t a bad score… I was disappointed when I came in because I felt like I had a round going at a certain time, but it was fine.

“And today, just the same – I feel like my game is improving day by day really since I’ve come back to playing a little bit.

“I think I hit a lot of good golf shots today. In the wind, it puts such an emphasis on ball control and I think sometimes what looks like an average golf shot is a very, very good golf shot. And you have to remind yourself of that.

“Today I hit a lot of fairways, and that clearly makes it easier from there around this golf course.”

Reflecting on his time away from the game, Fleetwood said he learned a lot by being forced to take a step away from the cauldron-like atmosphere of tournament golf and getting a new appreciation for the challenge it provides.

“It really is different. I like playing golf, and I played golf over the break, but it’s not the same,” he said.

“Tournament golf, even on a course that’s scoreable – the margins for error are so much smaller than leisurely golf. You play at a different pace and the setups are very different.

“So I’ve learned a lot from going away and coming back. When you’re playing 30 times a year, you don’t realise what a groove you’re getting in or how sharp you really are – even when you’re not playing at your best.

“Like I said, I feel like my game is getting better and better. I’m not gonna say I’m playing the best I’ve ever played, or I’m feeling as sharp as I’ve ever felt, but it’s definitely coming back, and days like today – a major championship and I’ve shot a great score – shows I’m hopefully not too far off.”