Golfers don’t seem to share the afflictions of new fathers everywhere – the bleary eyes and tired limbs from lack of sleep, and the blissful perspective on what has suddenly become merely work life. Tommy Fleetwood is a case in point, marking his first tournament since the birth of son Franklin with the first ever 63 at Carnoustie.
The man at the front of the Race to Dubai only shares the lead at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship with defending champion Tyrrell Hatton at the halfway stage, but even after taking a month off in preparation for wife Claire to give birth, Fleetwood could turn the Race into a leisurely jog to the finish line if he wins the £595,000 first prize here.
The 26-year-old Lancastrian had six birdies on the back nine to come home in 30, playing with Rory McIlroy – who had a 71 but needs something spectacular around Kingsbarns tomorrow to make the final 60 on Sunday.
The final putt of 12 feet for a three at the 18th – shorn of its full fearsomeness by a favouring wind but still with all those bunkers, the Barry Burn and the out of bounds beckoning – wiped its feet around the cup but dropped.
It means that Fleetwood not only has a share of the record of 62 at the Old Course – he did in 2014 – but finally broke the log-jam of as many as 10 co-holders of the record 64 for the Championship Course.
The first of those was Alan Tait’s in the Scottish National Pro-Am in 1994, and the last Alex Noren’s opening day eight-under score in last year’s Dunhill. The Championship Course is, of course, played as a par 71 for the Open, Steve Stricker and Richard Green both shooting 64 in that format in 2007.
But Fleetwood’s was the first 63 to be recorded on whatever length of the great old course, regarded as being the toughest championship test on the Open rota, if not in the entire country.
He didn’t even know he’d done it, his amateur playing partner Ogden Phipps telling him the good news after he’d retrieved his ball. “Is it?” he said with obvious surprise.
“I wanted to shoot nine under but I didn’t know the significance of it until then,” he said..
“I hold the record at the Old Course as well, so just Kingsbarns to go now!”
He plays there today, but needs a 59 for the full house, given Kingsbarns’ record is 60 held jointly by Branden Grace and Peter Uihlein.
“Sounds good, doesn’t it?” he added. “You don’t really think too much about it whilst you’re playing.
“I mean, I think I hit it in some places that you probably can’t go when the Open comes around, but it’s a brilliant thing to have the record on a golf course like this.
“Most of the times, your best rounds are when you don’t quite realise what you’re doing. I had that really hot streak from 11 on, after having good chances on 7-8-9, all chances that burnt the edge.
“Then I made the most of the par fives and holed a couple of putts, and there you go.”
Given Danny Willett won the Masters last year a year after becoming a Dad for the first time, there could be a pattern developing here.
“I had been practising whilst I was at home but I had a week where I didn’t do anything, and that week feels like a year when you’re in the middle of it.
“But I was kind of pleasantly surprised when I come on the range on Tuesday.
“I really enjoyed being back playing and being back in competition where every shot counts. Doesn’t matter how much you play at home or what you do, it’s not the same.”
McIlroy was suitably impressed; “He never put a foot wrong all day, it’s a special place to get the course record. It was great to watch.”
Hatton, aiming to the be the first man to retain the title, shot an outstanding 65 which was simply modest compared to Fleetwood playing behind him, and the pair share the lead at 11-under going into the weekend.
But he admitted that the pair and the top names got by far the better of the weather draw, with blustery winds of Thursday due to return overnight.
“This is the toughest (course), but I was very lucky, as were most of the guys here today. Yesterday was a really tough day at St. Andrews, especially the front nine.
“I certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed playing Carnoustie in that wind yesterday, that’s for sure. It is what it is, you can only play what’s in front of you. We were very fortunate today, and hopefully I can take that into the weekend.”
Overnight leader Paul Dunne would have been delighted with his 68 at Carnoustie continuing his super run of scores but he lost the lead and two shots of ground in yesterday’s company. Nicolas Colsaerts followed his 67 at Kingsbarns with another on the Old Course to be third on his own.
Germany’s Marcel Siem, who like Colsaerts will face the blustery winds at Carnoustie today, is sharing fourth with Dunne, while Scotland’s David Drysdale in one of five sharing sixth on eight-under.