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Tommy eyes Open glory – and tips Everton for the title

Golfer opens up about his love for Everton and his chances at The Open

146th Open Championship - Previews
Tommy Fleetwood
Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Despite the presence of Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy, you are unlikely to hear a bigger cheer at Royal Birkdale this week than when Tommy Fleetwood takes to the tee.

Fleetwood hails from Southport, just up the road from Birkdale, and so carries the tag of home favourite going into the 146th Open Championship.

Southport is also just a few miles north of Liverpool, where another one of Fleetwood’s passions reside – Everton.

The 26-year-old has spoken frequently about his love for the Blues, even if his chosen career means he cannot get to Goodison as much as he likes.

His recent career also perhaps mirrors that of the Toffees. Despite some early promise Fleetwood suffered a dip in form and ranked 188th in the world just 12 months ago.

However, like Everton, Fleetwood seems to be on the rise after a fine 2017 to date.

Wins at the French Open and in Abu Dhabi, combined with a fourth-place finish at the US Open has seen him fly up the rankings up to a career-high 14th.

Everton have yet to mark their Moshiri-led revival with a trophy but Fleetwood feels the long wait for silverware is nearly over.

“I can’t remember us winning anything. The last time was 1995 when we won the FA Cup but I was too little.

“But let’s not talk about the last few years – they’re going to win the league this year.

“We are going to be fine now and this might be a big year for us and hopefully I can start it off.”

Fleetwood has unsurprisingly been the star attraction the build-up to this tournament but he is taking it all in his stride.

A relative unknown a year ago, such attention is a new experience but something Fleetwood won’t let affect him.

“A lot more people are recognising me now but nothing too mad. Someone recognised me in Altrincham market the other day but I’ve not spotted anyone fainting or anything!

“My face is on a lot of lamp posts. My old school did a ‘Good Luck’ banner which makes you feel really nice.

“To be playing in The Open at this course where I used to sneak on as a lad, with all my family, friends and everyone cheering me on, is unreal.

“It’s going to be an unforgettable experience that’s for sure. I’ll have the most support I’ve ever had in my life. It’s going to be a great week for me no matter what.

“My dad is really proud but he’s just the same as he’s always been. He talks more about his golf than mine – he’s down to 10 handicap again.

“The expectation levels are big but I’d rather it be that way than come here as a no-hoper.”

But far from turning up to enjoy the ride Fleetwood hopes to play himself into contention.

HNA Open de France - Day Four Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images

There hasn’t been an English winner of The Open since Nick Faldo 1992 while an Englishman has never lifted the Claret Jug at Royal Birkdale.

Fleetwood is ready to re-write history – with his performance at Erin Hills last month fuelling evidence he can handle himself on the biggest stage.

“People are talking about me as a contender now and I’ll settle for that.

“I’ve thought about winning The Open since I was five so a few more days won’t make any difference.

“The thing is now I have the mindset with golf that nothing scares me. I’m happy on the course and off it and that plays a massive part in how you deal with things.”

The one thing I learned about myself from the US Open was that when I woke up on the Saturday and Sunday mornings I knew deep inside that I could do it.

“I felt comfortable. So if the time comes again where I’m contending I know I can do it and that’s a great feeling.”

One things for sure he will have the support of Evertonians across the world. Good luck Tommy!