Tommy Fleetwood would be crushed if Royal Portrush was as close as he got to winning the Claret Jug, but it would still be one of his fondest memories.
The popular Englishman is a key hope to finally breaking at least one half-century of hurt for his country this week – winning an Open on English soil for the first time since Tony Jacklin in 1970 at Royal Lytham.
Two years ago Fleetwood was as close as anyone to Shane Lowry. Had he holed a series of makeable putts on the first few holes when the Irishman was slightly wobbling on a windy and wet Sunday, there might have been a different tale to tell.
‘One of the fondest moments of my career’
It would be entirely appropriate if an Englishman won at Royal St. George’s and I can think of no one more appropriate than Tommy Fleetwood. pic.twitter.com/NORgyIQ09E
— TheGolfDivoTee™ (@TheGolfDivoTee) July 9, 2021
“That might prove to be the day I learned to win this,” he said. “Equally that might be the closest I ever get.
“That would be obviously disappointing, but at the same time I would look back at it as one of the fondest moments of my career.
“If I broke my leg tomorrow and never hit another golf shot, I’d look back at it and think I was playing in an Open in the final group on Sunday.
“That was my dream when I was a kid and I was really, really close. Both ends of the spectrum, it was a good experience. It hurt at the time but I would love to do it again.
“If I fail, I fail, but if I keep doing it I’ll succeed at some point.”
‘It’s the most motivating event in the world’
He’s in no doubt where this championship stands on his career priorities.
“For me it’s the most motivating event in the world. It’s a home event if you’re British but for me, St Andrews is my favourite course in the world and then you have Opens like Birkdale, Hoylake or Lytham.
“People go their lives without playing an event that close and it’s the biggest event in the world for me, on my doorstep. It’s just a very, very special event for us.
“I think the majority of British people have a sentimental value to that. It’s always going to be up for debate which is the biggest and best event in the world. In my opinion The Open’s the one.”
‘You don’t accept what you’ve got’
Fleetwood hasn’t been up to his highest standards recently, but he doesn’t feel there’s a lot wrong.
“I’m disappointed and everyone around me is disappointed being 33rd in the world or whatever I am,” he said. “I haven’t won for a while, haven’t really been in contention for a while. But as far as blips are concerned it’s not been that bad.
“I’ve shown signs a lot of the time where it feels really close, and it just never materialised. But I’m not lost by any means, it’s just that it hasn’t been the results that we look for.
“You do have to keep that perspective but that’s probably the hardest part. You think about what you’ve done wrong or you’re annoyed that you didn’t get out of it what you could.
“It’s probably what makes everybody better, you don’t accept what you’ve got. The more you can relax but work hard but let it happen, generally that’s when the good stuff comes.
“That’s the real Holy Grail, that one.”