By Mitch Phillips
PARIS (Reuters) – Tommy Fleetwood is probably the most laid-back man in golf and though he has heard all the advice about how the Ryder Cup can shred the nerves of the most stoic, he is determined to enjoy and embrace his first appearance.
After a slow-burn start to his professional career, then a dire loss of form that left him outside the top 100 two years ago, Fleetwood has roared back to the top of the European game.
Along the way, he has got married and has a young son who he says ensures any golfing lows don’t last long beyond the scorer’s hut.
Now he is not just part of a European Ryder Cup team for the first time but, ranked number 12 in the world and in hot form, he is one of the home side’s key men.
“The best piece of advice that (Ian) Poulter’s given me is that it’s the most special you’ll ever feel,” Fleetwood told reporters at the course on Tuesday.
“Whatever nerves you felt up to now, times it by 10, and that’s what you have. But this is what you want and this is what we play for, so embrace it, take it all in.”
Fleetwood is one of five rookies on the European team but, other than dealing with the razzmatazz of the Ryder Cup, he should feel comfortable on Le Golf National course where he won the French Open last year.
“I know when this week comes, it makes kind of no difference what has happened in the past, but it can only be a good thing to have good memories,” he said.
“Whenever you come to a course where you’ve hit good shots and you can picture those good shots, it always helps. The last holes here are tough, but one good thing about the closing stretch is no matter how nervous you are, there’s no bale-out. You have to stand up and hit a golf shot.”
Famously idiosyncratic – by golfing standards at least – the long-haired “working-class hero” Fleetwood won’t stand out for his shaggy outfits this week as he dons the European uniform.
“Without a doubt, this morning, whatever time I got up and putting this (European jumper) on, it’s the proudest moment of my career. It’s very special,” he said.
“The number one thing I’ve pictured since The Ryder Cup became a goal is that first tee shot. I’ve thought about it plenty, but again, nothing prepares you for the real thing. The grandstand is pretty big.
“It’s something that everybody wants in their career, so as nerve-racking as it is, and whatever those feelings are, everybody wants that in their life. So you have to just take it on and let it all happen.
“That’s what you’ve got to remember. As daunting as it can be, I mean, come on, it’s not a chore to be playing in The Ryder Cup. It’s the greatest thing you’ll ever do in your career.”
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips; Editing by Hugh Lawson)