Winning is never easy. For every Tiger Woods with more than 100 worldwide professional victories, there are thousands of pros who have never tasted glory on either the PGA or European Tours. In fact, there are thousands more who have never won a tournament on one of the mini tours.
For 22 months, Tommy Fleetwood has played some of the best golf of his career. Has been ranked as high as ninth in the world and never outside the top 20. Has amassed more than $10 million in on course earnings, and probably the same if not more off the course. Has become a fan favourite both sides of the pond, played host to the 2019 British Masters, became only the sixth player in US Open history to card a 63, and his current streak of 31 consecutive cuts made is more than double that of his closest challenger on the PGA Tour.
But there was one thing missing. 22 months had passed since Fleetwood’s putter – he has always been a supreme ball-striker – caught fire in the final round in Abu Dhabi to leapfrog Rory McIlroy, Ross Fisher and Matt Fitzpatrick and successfully defend his crown. And unlike his 2018 Open Championship prize money – The European Tour erroneously paid Fleetwood’s $154,480 prize money to a Florida based PGA teaching professional with the same name, with the correct Fleetwood admitting to being unaware that it hadn’t been paid – the charismatic Englishman was well aware what was missing.
Despite the affable persona, accentuated by the long hair and beard more commonly associated with rock-and-roll roadies than professional golfers, you don’t achieve the level of success that Fleetwood has, never mind the consistency he has shown over the past three years without steely determination and the utmost dedication to his craft. As stated in his immediate post round interview, which seemed to take place before his ball had even hit the bottom of the cup, money is no longer an issue and, barring some incredibly ill-advised investments or completely going off the rails, Tommy knows that his family is set for life.
His final round 65, followed by an incredible up and down on the first playoff hole was enough to credit the Fleetwood’s bank account to the tune of $2.5 million, but it was the victory, not the money that had the man from Southport on the verge of tears in Sun City.
And as a fan, it was great to see for so many reasons. Ok, both the money and the victory may have been more life-changing for 23-year-old Marcus Kinhult than for Fleetwood, but even at such a young age, Kinhult already has a European Tour win under his belt (ironically coming at Hillside Golf Club in this year’s British Masters with Fleetwood as tournament host) and has achieved more than 99 percent of professional players ever will. But Fleetwood back in the winner’s circle makes his 2020 major challenge all the more interesting and is a welcome boost to Padraig Harrington and Europe’s hopes of retaining the Ryder Cup in less than a year.
Few will argue that sport doesn’t give you what you deserve, and fewer still will argue that Fleetwood wasn’t a deserving winner after 22 months of top quality play and several near misses. Does he deserve a major? Not yet, but he’s on the shortlist every time he tees it up.
One thing is certain, there would be few more popular major winners.