Tommy Fleetwood has fallen outside the world’s top 30 after a frustrating first half of 2021

Credit: PA

Tommy Fleetwood is taking inspiration from the return to form of his friend Harry Kane as he tries to launch his own challenge for major honours on home soil.

Fleetwood, the former European No 1, has fallen outside the world’s top 30 after a frustrating first half of 2021 that has seen him feature on leaderboards, but failing to record a strokeplay top-five. In short, the 30-year-old has resembled a striker getting into the correct positions but unable to score at the crucial moments. Fortunately, he has an ally who has provided a fine example in the merits of perseverance and patience.

“I met Harry at a golf day last year and we have kept in touch,” Fleetwood said after his first-round 66 here at the Scottish Open. “I haven’t wanted to bother him during the Euros, but we have spoken a bit and I’ve told him it’s great to see the lads doing well – and him, of course.  I don’t think people give enough credit to how much pressure is on them to go and do it.

“It’s interesting, when it’s you and when it’s your journey and it’s your game, you don’t see it from an outsider’s perspective.

“It’s just so important to be doing the right things and knowing you’re doing the right things. Sport ebbs and flows; life ebbs and flows. I’m pretty sure my time will come again, whether it’s now or next week or in a year’s time.”

Now would be ideal timing. Fleetwood finished second in this event at this venue last year and also came runner-up the last time the Open was played, in 2019. He played in the last group on the Sunday alongside Shane Lowry at Royal Portrush and afterwards spoke of how much he looked forward to having another crack at the Claret Jug. 

It has been a long wait, but with the finishing touches being applied at Royal St George’s he feels as if his game is at last coming back. “The last month I’ve seen positive signs,” Fleetwood said. He was especially pleased that he managed to bounce back with a birdie on his last hole (the ninth) after bogeying the eighth.

“There have been times this year where I might have bogeyed the ninth as well, because it’s not an easy par three, requiring a four-iron,” he said. “Sometimes those are the things that make a big difference.”

On five-under, Fleetwood is two off the pace set by fellow Englishman Jack Senior – the world No 353 supreme in his bogeyless 64 – with Lee Westwood and American Justin Thomas tying for second on six-under. Thomas, the world No 3, rolled in a 90-footer for an eagle on the par-five seventh – “the hole got in the way perfectly”, he said – while Westwood reiterated his fondness for a tournament he won 23 years ago.

“I opened with a 62 here last year so I must be getting worse,” Westwood said with a grin. “I played this course a lot when I lived in Edinburgh a few years ago – they were kind enough to make me an honorary member – so I know it really well.The pins were tricky today but there wasn’t much wind, so I expected pretty low scores.” 

Rory McIlroy was only able to shoot a 70 and on one-under faces a fight to make the cut.