By Steve Keating
AUGUSTA, GA (Reuters) – Tommy Fleetwood may already be one of golf’s most recognisable players but the mop-topped Englishman is determined to be marked out as winner rather than for a great head of hair.
Looking more like a member of Hall of Fame rock band Fleetwood Mac than the PGA Tour, the 28-year-old, with his scruffy beard and long locks spilling out from under a baseball cap, was easily distinguishable from the cookie cutter golfing crowd getting in some practice on Monday at Augusta National ahead of the Masters.
Considering Fleetwood’s PGA Tour resume does not yet include a title, he would not have drawn much attention had it not been for his “better to burn out than fade away” approach to tournament play which has amplified his rocker image.
That “all in” attitude was on full display during the final round of the Players Championship last month when he was trailing Rory McIlroy by two strokes with two holes to play. Fleetwood attacked the pin on the infamous 17th island green and paid the price as his title hopes ended in a watery grave.
“I don’t know why people would expect me to play for the middle of the green if I had a chance of catching Rory,” Fleetwood told reporters. “Maybe that’s my difference than some other people, I’m always going to play to win.
“Not that golf will ever define me as a person but I’m never going to look back on my career and say, oh, I finished third at the Players, that was a good week. Or, oh, I finished top five at the Masters, I made a couple of nice pars on the last to finish top five.
“That’s probably something I’ll never say to my kids or grandkids. That’s not something to be that proud of.
“Winning is what it’s all about.”
While Fleetwood is still chasing a maiden PGA Tour title, he does know his way to the winner’s circle with four victories on the European Tour.
He has regularly featured on the leaderboard at majors, including a runner-up finish at last year’s U.S. Open and has shown good form this season with three top 10s.
More importantly Fleetwood believes his Masters apprenticeship has reached the point where he can fight for a green jacket.
After missing the cut in his first visit to Augusta in 2017, Fleetwood improved to a 17th place finish last year. He showed signs that he was getting comfortable with the layout after carding a six-under 66 in the third round.
“Year one, it’s all so new,” said Fleetwood. “Year two, you’ve been here already, so you’re more comfortable with it and it just kind of progresses.
“There’s a different atmosphere.
“It’s the first major of the year and … everything that’s happened before just doesn’t really matter.
“You know, this is it.”
(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)