Tommy Fleetwood said he was disappointed and a ‘bit low’ after finishing runner-up to Open Champion Shane Lowry, but hopes his time to win a major ‘will come eventually’
It was always going to be a big ask to overturn a four shot advantage and beat Shane Lowry to the Claret Jug on Sunday, but Tommy Fleetwood was left disappointed after he failed to take advantage of his chances and recorded his second major championship runner-up finish.
“Obviously disappointed and a bit low,” said Fleetwood after a final round 74 that left him six-shots behind in second place. “I look at it now, six shots back, but the last three or four holes were kind of a bit of a procession for Shane, and he did great.
“I felt like if I could have — I hit two great shots on 1. I didn’t convert 2. I hit a good shot in after a pulled tee shot on 3, missed a short one on that. Them first few holes, when you start four back, pretty crucial. I didn’t do a good enough job of sort of pressing at that point.
“Struggled in the middle and four back with six to go still in it. 14 was killer. I know six shots is a long way behind in the end, but it always feels closer when you’re playing. And, yeah, it’s not great now. I’m happy for Shane, don’t get me wrong.”
For Fleetwood, who finished second in the U.S. Open by a shot to Brooks Koepka last year, it was more of a bitter pill to swallow as he admitted the Open is the major he most wants to win.
“If I could pick one event (to win) it would be The Open,” said Fleetwood as he compared the two runner-ups. “It’s my dream, and it always will be. And you’re teeing off in the last group on Sunday with a very, very good chance.
“Shinnecock I felt great that week. I had that rough Saturday. And Sunday turned up and it was — if I had shot 78 on the Sunday, I would have finished top-20 at Shinnecock and it would have been fine. Shinnecock has a little piece of history, I shot 63 and it felt great. It was never my tournament.
“Today was much more in the mix. I’ve had a really good feeling all weekend.
“So it feels a lot rougher finishing when you feel like you’ve come so close to what you’ve dreamt as a kid. So that one just feels different.”
The biggest moment of the day came at the very first hole when Fleetwood responded to Lowry’s nervy start with a brilliant iron to shot set-up an opening chance at birdie. But as his putt slipped by the hole, Lowry managed to save a bogey, and a potential three shot swing ended up as just one, cutting the lead from four shots to three.
It settled Lowry, and it would be the closest Fleetwood would come to the lead for the remainder of the day as a lacklustre putting performance saw him miss par saves at both three and ten, an eagle chance at five, and a bogey on the 14th.
Combined with brutally tough conditions, birdies became scarce around Royal Portrush, and Lowry difficult to catch.
By the turn Lowry had increased his lead to five strokes, and although mistakes from the leader and a birdie at the 12th for Fleetwood once more cut the lead to four, a double-bogey on the 14th hole derailed any hope for the Englishman of mounting a further challenge.
For Fleetwood, that was the moment he began to stop believing he could win, and a birdie from the leader on 15 ensured the title belonged to the Irishman.
“14, I think,” Fleetwood said of the hole he felt his race was run. “Especially — definitely 15. I think 14 was just a bit of a killer blow, really. I hit a really good tee shot. After struggling through the middle of the round with my game, and when the weather came in, I missed a short putt on 10. I played 11 great, 12 great, 13 I hit an okay shot, it’s hard to hold that green, good chip and putt on 14. Then you end up in the bunker, and you have to push something. Like a poor second shot out of the bunker.
“Such a difficult hole if you’re out of position that one, and clearly made a mess. Once that hole was over that was pretty much — you never want to think like that, and you obviously carry on, but that was pretty much it.”
In the end, the final four holes turned in to a celebration for Irish golf, and a racaus procession for the Open Championship on it’s return to Ireland for the first time in 68 years.
But despite his disappointment, Fleetwood was certain he was going to learn from the experience, which marked the first time he was in the final group of a major.
“I think first and foremost, whatever happened today was going to be an experience and you were going to take things from it. That’s the first time I’ve played in the last group of a major on a Sunday.
“You learn things as you go. You learn things about yourself. I watched Shane in The Open. I watched how he conducted himself and how he played. And for four rounds of golf I was the second-best player in the event, which is a great achievement. You have to look at it like that. I’m sure in a few hours or a couple of days I might see that.
“I’ll reflect, I think I played a lot of very, very good golf this week. I think for me personally it was nice to play more like I feel like how I should play again. And of course in a major, it’s my second runner-up in a major, which is great and I’m trending in the right way. I just hope my time will come eventually.
“I’m going to look at this, I’m going to learn things, I can write things down on reflection, how I felt last night, this morning, on the golf course, what I could have done better, what I did do great and what I need to repeat next time.
“Hopefully I’ll put myself in position again, numerous times, and hopefully I can make it up. And eventually, we have a long way now until the next major. It will be difficult to come down for a few days but you’ve got to get back on it and start again.”