By Kent Gray
The shoulder length locks that flow beneath his Nike cap might be Tommy Fleetwood’s most distinguishing feature but do not dismiss the massive ticker beneath the swoosh on his shirt.
After an opening 73 that threatened to derail a season’s good work, the 26-year-old from Southport has come from a long way back to be a genuine chance for not only the coveted Race to Dubai title but also the decisive DP World Tour Championship as well.
A second successive 65 Saturday, all the more impressive after another frustratingly slow start, got Fleetwood to -13 and means he will start the final round of the European Tour season just two shots shy of leader Justin Rose. The way Rose is playing – he matched the third round 65 on a day of ridiculously low scoring and remains on course for a remarkable hat-trick of titles – means Fleetwood won’t do it easy finishing equal or better than his countryman, the equation that ensures he will be European No.1 for the first time. But he’s a chance and that, in his own words, is pretty “cool”.
Indeed, after again letting his game do the talking on Earth, Fleetwood was again saying all the right things on the eve of the biggest round of his life.
“It’s massive. It really is,” Fleetwood acknowledged of his what’s at stake on Sunday.
“It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever tried to achieve. I was in contention in the U.S. Open and México [WGC] but they were like one or two rounds. This has been all year and you come down to the final event.
“I mean, year and a half ago, I was absolutely nowhere in the game and I was a bit lost. Fast forward to where for me, it’s been amazing to play and to enjoy my golf this year; and then to get to this stage. It’s been an absolute pleasure and privilege trying to compete for a Race to Dubai.”
Fleetwood bogeyed the 5th to be going backwards while everyone around him was forging up the leaderboard. But with eight birdies in his last 11 holes and five in his last six the Englishman has heart.
The last 36-holes must give you confidence for Sunday’s final duel? Fleetwood’s answer was part genuine, part Rose-tinted reality.
“Yeah, big time, don’t seem to matter what I’m doing at the moment. When you look at the leaderboard, we know who’s there.
“Yeah, I played very well Thursday. Wasn’t good [scoring] at all, and just got to dust yourself off and get back on it. You know, even days like today, I had seven holes where I was 1-over, and yesterday I think I had a patch in the middle of the round from 7 through 11, so that was five holes where I was 1-over.
“So you’ve got to stay patient when it’s not coming and then ride the roller coaster when it’s going your way I suppose. Yeah, amazing to be, from where we were Thursday night, to stand here and be actually in the tournament, it’s been great.”
Fleetwood, who will look to add to his victories in Abu Dhabi and France, reckoned his seven week old son Frankie would help him keep his mind off Sunday overnight.
“Above all, whether I win it or not, or whether Justin wins it, one of us will have deserved it. It’s been an absolute pleasure trying to win a Race to Dubai, coming down these last few events, and especially this week now. The week could have gone not quite as how you wanted it, not being in contention or anything. So last day of the season and I’ve got a chance to win The Race to Dubai, it’s cool.
“This is nothing closest to the biggest day of my life but in my career, it is. [You’ve got to] enjoy these moments. This is what you practice for and this is what you play for. It’s brilliant, isn’t it. Makes me smile.”