"Winning here would be the ultimate dream," says Tommy Fleetwood of playing the Open in his home town.
He's already won twice in 2017, and Tommy Fleetwood certainly has no qualms about posing for pictures alongside the Claret Jug.
Most golfers would be wary about tempting fate, but Fleetwood jokes that he’s already suffered enough at the hands of the golfing gods. Besides, it’s always been his childhood dream to win the Open, and he gets the chance to do it in his home town this summer.
We travelled up to Southport a few weeks ago to speak to Tommy about what he's looking forward to about playing at Royal Birkdale.
Playing the Open at Birkdale is probably the ultimate. To win the Open is any British golfer’s dream. But the chance to win it ve minutes from where you grew up doesn’t get any more special. There’s been a lot of people already who’ve said they can’t wait to watch me play at Birkdale. Hopefully, we’ll give them something to clap about!
Birkdale is a driving golf course. You have to know what you’re doing and you need to have a plan before you step foot on the tee. If you’re in play on every hole, you’ll have a good chance of scoring well. But if you’re not, you’ve got no chance. That’s rule No.1 of Birkdale. You can’t play the course from the rough or the fairway bunkers.
There’s not one fairway bunker on the course where you can get to the green; it really is that hard. So many bunkers these days are not penal at all and are almost as kind as being on the fairway. But if you go in one at Birkdale, it’s a case of just getting it out. It’s literally a shot penalty.
There are no gimme holes. You need to make your pars and if the odd chance comes up, you’ve got to try and take it.
There are no par 5s which are easy and there’s no let up from start to finish. You can make the mistake of thinking holes like ve and 10 are simple, because you only need an iron and a wedge. But if you get out of position, you are struggling to make pars. The so-called hard holes are very hard and the easy holes are not very easy.
Luck of the draw always play a part at The Open. The weather can make a massive difference and the softer the course, the easier it plays. If it gets rm, it will be a real test. Some of the greens here are raised and that makes it much harder to control the ball when it’s hard. Generally, they’re not actually that quick but they always have subtle breaks in them. There’s no massive undulations or slopes, but even when you’re inside 10 feet, there’s always something going on. It can be easy to miss the little breaks and that’s what makes the greens so tricky.
The finish is going to play a massive part. In 15, 16, 17 and 18, you’ve got two really tough par 4s and two par 5s. They will decide the tournament and the guy who keeps his ball in play all the time off the tee and stays patient will have the best chance.
So many players say Birkdale is their favourite golf course, or it’s in their top three, or it’s the best Open venue. That’s honest opinions of golfers that have played all around the world and played all kinds of tournaments. And they put Royal Birkdale up there, every time. It is such a great golf course and such a great venue, especially the town that surrounds it.
Tommy Fleetwood is hoping to be the home town hero at Royal Birkdale
I’ve got pictures of me coming on here when I was a little kid. Not playing, but me and my dad used to come to the parks and eld around it and hit a few golf shots. My first memories of The Open was actually coming here with my dad in 1998. That was when I was seven.
This will be the first time I’ve been able to play an Open in my hometown. It was last here in 2008 and I just missed out. I got to the nal of the British Amateur that year and I missed out, so that was harsh.
The first Open I played in was at Hoylake. You would think that was close enough to home, but we’ve just outdone it by coming to Birkdale. I grew up 10 minutes away, but my mum and dad now live in Ainsdale, which is five minutes away... if that! I grew up on the local muni and then I was a member at a couple of other golf clubs. I think I played 14 holes two years ago and that was the last time I played here before today.
Royal Birkdale Course Guide