Tommy Fleetwood started the final round of the U.S. Open on Sunday tied for 23rd, but he still held a glimmer of hope that he could contend.
Then he shot the sixth 63 in U.S. Open history, finishing a little after 4 in the afternoon. And he sat and he sat and he sat before finally hitting a few balls on the range.
A whole bunch of players had come after him with a chance to win, but by 6 p.m. he was still in contention, two shots behind leader Brooks Koepka.
Fleetwood’s early charge came up just short, though. Koepka’s bogey on the 18th hole was good enough to best him by a single shot.
Fleetwood made eight birdies and a lone bogey at par-70 Shinnecock Hills to tie players such as Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Miller for the lowest score ever in the national championship. He had three good birdie looks on the final three holes that could have yielded him the all-time low score, including a 9-footer on the 18th that he just didn’t hit hard enough.
“I honestly never really thought I was out of it. I just needed a good start. You never know what’s going to happen,” said Fleetwood, the No. 1 player in Europe, the No. 12 player in the world and a fourth-place finisher in the Open at Erin Hills last year. “And obviously, we knew they would have made it a bit softer today. Looking at the pins, you knew they were going to be more accessible. I knew I was kind of in it teeing off, but you still have to get off to that good start; 4 under through seven, and it was game on.”
The previous low score in an Open at Shinnecock was 65, by Lanny Wadkins and Mark Calcavecchia in 1986 and Neal Lancaster in 1995. Rickie Fowler shot 65 Sunday.
The lowest score at Shinnecock was 62 by former Masters champion Craig Stadler in a casual round in 2014. Club member Jimmy Dunne and pro Adam Scott each shot 63 in casual rounds. Dunne’s included an ace on the par-3 11th.
This is another step forward for Fleetwood, 27, whose simple swing and solid putting stroke bode well for his chance for a major and ever-increasing stardom. “It was a good one. It was a great one,” he said of his day. “So many positives, so many great things. Had a chance to shoot a 62. And at the end of the day, I got within one of winning.”
As for that 62, Fleetwood was well aware of that number standing over a 9-footer for birdie on the 18th hole.
“I knew what it was for,” he said. “I hit the putt I wanted to.”
Asked if he was pleased to equal the best score in the Open, the jovial Englishman said: “Yes, but I wanted the 62.”
What he wants more is a major title, and he’s full of confidence and hope.
“This is my best result in a major yet,” Fleetwood said. “So now there’s only one thing I can do from here, and that’s win one.”
Players shooting 63 in the U.S. Open
1973 Johnny Miller 8-under-par at Oakmont
1980 Jack Nicklaus 7-under-par at Baltusrol
1980 Tom Weiskopf 7-under-par at Baltusrol
2003 Vijay Singh 7-under-par at Olympia Fields
2017 Justin Thomas 9-under-par at Erin Hills
2018 Tommy Fleetwood 7-under-par at Shinnecock Hills