By Richard Williamson
TOMMY Fleetwood has been in this position before – chasing after American major machine Brooks Koepka.
The Southport golfer opened his US PGA Championship challenge in fine style with a three under round of 67 at the daunting Bethpage Black near New York. Not bad for a man who seven days ago was hosting a European Tour event on his home patch under leaden British skies.
That left him four shots back in the wake of a stunning performance from defending champion Koepka, who has already bagged two US Opens and a US PGA to illustrate his ability to prepare and deliver for golf’s biggest events.
But the 28-year-old, who plays out of Formby Hall GC, refused to be intimidated by the size of the deficit – and knows that he is capable of going low himself, after his own 63 took him to within one shot of Koepka at the US Open at Shinnecock Hills, which is in the same neck of the woods as this week’s tournament.
“Look it’s only the first round, but yeah, Brooks does a very good job at majors,” Fleetwood said. “I sure wouldn’t be surprised if he was still there on Sunday. He’s a lot bigger than me and he hits it a bit further. He’s got a bigger bone balance.”
Whatever the magnitude of the game of catch-up Fleetwood is left facing, he admits he feels comfortable both out on the course and in the environs of a major.
“Someone just asked me what it is about me and this part of the world,” Fleetwood said. “Maybe I just fit in. These major set-ups suit me and my style of golf. It doesn’t always go right, but I enjoy getting in a dogfight with the toughest layouts in the world.
“As for me and Brooks, I’m short of those wins at the moment, although I do feel that if I can keep getting into contention it will be a matter of time. But definitely in terms of liking the challenge of majors and how I think some players go about majors I guess we could look at there being a similarity.”
Koepka was as ominous off the course as he was on it after a near flawless round.
“I’ve never been this confident,” said a player who has returned three wins, a second and a sixth in his last seven majors.
Koepka doesn’t have to talk the talk, his stats do it all for him.