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Tommy Fleetwood, no longer under the radar, toughs out a 66

Englishman Tommy Fleetwood played a good portion of

Englishman Tommy Fleetwood played a good portion of his round Friday in rain and wind but shot 4-under-par 66, tying for the best round of the day with defending champion Brooks Koepka, at the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton on Friday. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Tommy Fleetwood looks more the product of the Beatles era than the Arnold Palmer era. His long flowing mane defies the conventional golfer’s coif and belies the talent of the game within.

At last year’s U.S. Open at Erin Hills, Fleetwood announced himself to the American golf fan, though he had been a rising star on the European Tour for several seasons.

Now the 27-year-old from Birkdale, England, just north of Liverpool, home of the Beatles, is back for more at this year’s Open at Shinnecock. A sparkling 4-under-par 66 in the second round Friday put him five shots behind leader Dustin Johnson. He performed admirably in nautical conditions Friday morning when some unexpected rain and wind made it a heavy slog at the start of the round.

“Middle of the round, where it was 16, 17, 18, 1, 2, when it was — like it was windy and it was cold and the rain was coming down, it was literally counting holes down and trying to survive and make pars,” Fleetwood said.

His survival skills may be his strongest asset.

“I think that some of the strengths I have, I have a lot of patience, and I can kind of — the tougher the conditions, the more I feel like I can grind it out and will my way around a little bit,” the jovial Englishman said. “You still got to play well, but all those go together in a good round. If you play bad, I still feel like I can keep it together and keep going. Whether I shoot 10 over or 66 today, I feel like, when the weather is bad, I kind of have that in me, the mental side.”

In last year’s Open, he started the final round a stroke back of leader Brian Harman, but some untimely bogeys dented his charge, and he and the other contenders were blitzed by a stellar 67 from champion Brooks Koepka (who matched Fleetwood’s 66 for Friday’s best round at Shinnecock). Fleetwood ended up in fourth place, a strong effort in his second Open appearance.

That showing was part of his best season. He won twice on the European Tour in 2017, with 10 top-10 finishes and a healthy bank account of more than 5 million euros. With another victory on the European Tour this season, he’s stealthily climbed to No. 12 in the world rankings.

The Erin Hills performance was good for the ego, even if it has no bearing on his results at Shinnecock. But he’s given himself a chance again.

“What happened a year ago has absolutely no effect on tomorrow or Sunday,” Fleetwood said. “I’ve still got to turn up and play well, and I’ve got to concentrate hole by hole. But [last year] has shown me that I can stand up and I can compete in the biggest tournaments in the world. I didn’t win, but I felt pretty comfortable and I was a shot off second, really. It did show me that I can do it and hold my own at the weekend.”

A weekend of late tee times is never a bad thing at the U.S. Open.

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