Tommy Fleetwood has again put himself in position for a long overdue maiden PGA Tour title, superbly handling the meltdown Memphis conditions to post a 66 on day two of the FedEx St. Jude Championship.
Fleetwood managed six birdies, including three in succession from the second to fourth holes, though undid a little of his great work with two bogeys – one of these coming at the last.
Indeed, temperatures were nudging the mid 30s with high humidity, leaving players, caddies and spectators alike dripping in perspiration, and if there was ever a round of golf to support the idea of players wearing shorts, it was today.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 11, 2023
Of course, now based in Dubai, Fleetwood is well accustomed to the heat so is better equipped than many to handle it.
“Well, in Dubai, we’re about to fly back to Dubai in a week or two weeks, and that will be in the 50s, so yeah, I’ll be out in it,” he said. “It’s better out there today than playing in 50 mile-an-hour winds at Royal Porthcawl like they had recently for the Seniors Open. It’s easier than that.
“Obviously the disadvantage is just how sweaty it is, how slippery your hands can be and the grips and everything, and clearly energy levels. You’ve really got to focus on that and make sure you’re drinking enough and sort of don’t get ahead of yourself on the golf course.
The action is heating up @FedExChamp.
So is the temperature 😅 pic.twitter.com/2RuZAh4C7h
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 11, 2023
“So, it was hot out there today and, clearly, like conditions bring their own challenge physically.
“It’s very, very hot. Having said that, when we teed off and for the majority of the round early on, it was very calm. It was warm. If you can put it in the fairway, we’re playing preferred lies, so it was great conditions to actually score.
“Got tougher when the wind came and the wind started swirling a little bit, but overall, yeah, it was just a day where you just keep plodding along. I wasn’t doing anything particularly fast, just keep going and try and stay in rhythm and keep hitting shots.”
The heat drained also drained the patience of many players including overnight leader Jordan Spieth, who at one point showed his frustration by kicking his driver after a poor tee shot. A two-under 68 sees Spieth drop to second at nine-under, while Spaniard Jon Rahm fought a few demons on his way to a second-round 67 to be just outside the leading 50 heading into the weekend rounds.
Indeed, with temperatures nudging the high 90s and soaring humidity, players, caddies and spectators alike were left dripping in perspiration, and if there was ever a round of golf to stake the claim that players should be allowed to wear shorts, it was today.
According to the PGA Tour’s meteorologist, the high temperature on day two of the opening Play-Off Series event was 94 degrees with a heat index of 110 degrees – a record for the season.
The extreme heat resulted in Eric Larson, who caddies for Harris English, needing to seek medical attention.
“[Larson] bent down to tie his shoe on the 11th hole [English’s second] and he kind of stood up like he was about to go down. I told him to take a knee,” English said. “I grew up in south Georgia and this is the hottest, muggiest day I’ve ever had on the golf course.”
No such concerns for Fleetwood, however, as the affable Englishman headed to the air-conditioned TPC Southwind clubhouse in what is his 124th PGA Tour sanctioned event, and trails 36-hole leaded Lucas Glover by two strokes. The highpoint of the winner of last week’s Wyndham Championship second day’s play was a holed 32-foot eagle-two putt at the par-5 16th Glover was playing as his seventh.
Despite 124 starts, Fleetwood of course has yet to win on the PGA Tour, but with five second-place finishes, three thirds, 21 top-fives and 31 top-10s, he’s done everything but.
What is really remarkable is that Fleetwood, since joining the PGA Tour in 2018, has banked PGA Tour prize-money of $18,985,523.
Fleetwood is returning to competition after his superb T10 finish at the 151st Open Championship – an effort that brought much delight to not only the now 32-year-old Englishman but a huge following of fans who braved the awful weekend conditions to cheer-on the long-haired Southport-born golfer.
His Hoylake showing was a third top-10 finish for Fleetwood in his past four appearances in golf’s oldest major while he also secured a T5 result at the US Open – his third top-10 in America’s equivalent.
It’s not yet confirmed but Fleetwood is certain to be heading to Rome later next month for what will be his third Ryder Cup, so his show of strength these past few months will surely bring comfort to European team captain, Luke Donald.