A month after winning almost a million pounds, Tommy Fleetwood put a free umbrella to good use as he surged into contention to become the first English winner of the Open Championship for 26 years.
Fleetwood defied miserable conditions at Carnoustie to card six birdies in a flawless second round of 65, two shots outside the course record he set in last year’s Dunhill Links Championship.
“It’s no course record but it will do for today,” said Fleetwood, who recorded three birdies on the front nine and three more on the inward half, including on the daunting 18th to finish his round in style.
“Last year’s second round might have been better than this one.”
Fleetwood was the poster boy of last year’s Open at Royal Birkdale, the 27-year-old from Southport admitting the course was “forbidden fruit” which he and his father had to sneak on to when he was a kid.
An opening 76 left him facing a fourth straight missed cut in the Open, but Fleetwood bounced back with a 69 in challenging conditions to make the cut and went on to finish 27th.
“Last year definitely was a bit more difficult than this year in terms of expectation coming very quickly for me and that was a home Open Championship,” Fleetwood added.
“At the moment I’ve put myself high in the world rankings and I’ve had the US Open just recently where I had a great result. With that comes expectation, and with that you have to learn to manage it and handle it. But at the same time it’s much nicer than having no eyes on you at all.”
England’s Tommy Fleetwood celebrates his birdie on the 18th during day two of The Open Championship (David Davies/PA)
That was the case as recently as September 2016 when Fleetwood was a lowly 188th in the world, but he reaped the rewards of returning to his former coach Alan Thompson and employing his friend Ian Finnis – the husband of former England women’s goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis – as his caddie.
Fourth in the US Open last year, Fleetwood performed even better at Shinnecock Hills in June, finishing a shot behind defending champion Brooks Koepka after agonisingly missing from eight feet for birdie on the 72nd hole to equal the all-time major record of 62.
A first major title could now beckon on home soil instead and make Fleetwood the first Englishman to lift the Claret Jug since Nick Faldo in 1992.
“It would be very special,” the world number 10 added. “I can’t lie about it. If I could pick one tournament in my life to win, it would be the Open. I’ve never been anywhere near before.
“We’re only halfway through the tournament unfortunately. There’s no point thinking about the end game. Thirty six holes is a long time. Today’s been a round where I’ve put myself back in the tournament and I’ve just got to move on from there really.
“If I can hit it like I did today, then obviously I’m going to have a lot of chances coming in over the weekend and we’ll see where that takes me.”
As for that bright yellow umbrella which attracted so much attention, Fleetwood revealed: “We got one given for free actually. We don’t always carry an umbrella as we don’t have a sponsor. So it just so happens this week that we’ve got a nice Open Championship brolly. It looked quite nice.”