Tommy Fleetwood has victory in mind at a lush Sawgrass
Move back to March for The Players Championship has made it a different test
Tommy Fleetwood of England looks on during a practice round for The Players Championship on The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
It is an indicator of Tommy Fleetwood’s rising ambitions on the eve of the Players Championship that a share of third at last weekend’s Arnold Palmer Invitational was something of a disappointment. The Englishman shot a 76 on Saturday but recovered to the point where he finished three shy of Francesco Molinari.
“Winning is hard, you have to put it all together over four days in different conditions,” said Fleetwood on Wednesday. “Hopefully I can get the knack of it eventually.”
The switch of the tournament to this week from its previous position in May may benefit Fleetwood. Sawgrass is noticeably lush, with the random element of fiery greens and fairways now – in theory – removed. Fleetwood is yet to taste victory in the United States, a situation that will inevitably change before long.
“If I drive it like I normally do then it’s a big advantage round here because if you are always in play, it’s scoreable after that,” Fleetwood explained. “A lot of the tee shots are difficult so if I can do that well and be aggressive then hopefully I can do enough other things right to be up there.
“It’s different. It is a very different test because it’s not firm at all, it’s very, very green. In the past it has been so firm and you have to be careful. I think you have a few more misses around the greens because you can chip out of the rough and the greens are softer.
“I feel good. Last week was the most confident I’ve felt on the golf course. I played some really good stuff. It has been a little bit different: in previous years I started really fast and my confidence was so high. I have built into this year a little bit but the courses are tough. There are a lot of courses out here that make you feel uncomfortable. It’s hard if you don’t quite feel on your game to go out and put scores on the board.”
The head of the PGA Tour, meanwhile, has accepted a degree of responsibility for rules rows which have plagued the start to this season after some rules, overseen by the USGA and R&A, were overhauled on 1 January. Top players – Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler included – have been vehement in their criticism. The PGA Tour, European Tour, USGA, R&A, PGA of America and Augusta National held a rules summit at Sawgrass on Wednesday morning.
“When you roll out 50 changes, there are going to be some things that work really well and some things that might create debate,” said Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour’s commissioner. “Lost in some of the discussion is all the things that are working really well – the list is long – and I think it’s right that we are two and a half months in and there are some rules that are causing debate and discussion.
“I think what’s happened here the last few weeks has just exposed a weakness in our working relationship, which happens when you’ve got a lot of different organisations. So we’re going to tighten that up. We are going to move forward in a way that is going to be good for the game and certainly is going to get us to the right place over time with these new rules.”
Monahan shot down any notion the PGA Tour could create its own rulebook. “We have two fantastic professional governing bodies of the game,” he said. “We have always played by their rules and we will continue to play by their rules. We are not going to be playing by our own rules.”