ERIN, WISCONSIN – Tommy Fleetwood stole through the shadows, his hair tethered by a hat, his expectations soaring. He crouched over a putt that would take him to 7 under and a share of the lead with Paul Casey, his countryman, Brian Harman, a playing partner, and Brooks Koepka, who had played on the European Tour a year or so ago. As he did so, the half-full stands behind him fell silent.
He stroked it tenderly, as he might caress the face of a newborn baby, and gave a little jerk as the putt caught the edge, swivelled and then disappeared. Moments later, as he strode off the green making his way to the recorder’s hut, a man shouted at him: “Awesome job, Tommy. You’re a great man.”
Not that you would know it. With his long hair and iron-thin frame, he looks as though the strap of a guitar over his shoulder would be more appropriate than the strap of a bag of golf clubs. But make no mistake he can play. Aged 25, he was 99th in the world ranking at the end of 2016. He is 26 now and up to 33rd and rising.
He was quite matter of fact about his Friday 70, pointing out that he had had “a right shot in him early on” and that even though the fairways were wide, it could be difficult to make good contact from only a few feet off the short grass.
Whatever happens to him in the third round, Fleetwood said, he would enjoy it. His caddie was Ian Finnis, “my best mate,” and the thought of the two of them walking together onto the 18th green in the US Open was something that was hard to beat. “That can’t be underestimated having your friend with you, whether you’re leading the US Open or not.”
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Fleetwood has played only one US Open before this and never held the lead in that one. He is one of a quartet of two Englishmen and two Americans on 7-under par at the head of the field this time. “Tomorrow will be a very cool experience,” he said, looking and sounding very cool himself.