Flawless Fleetwood stays on a roll

LANCASHIRE hot-shot Tommy Fleetwood wrote another extraordinary chapter in his remarkable 2017 season, firing a flawless closing round of 66 to claim a one shot victory in the HNA Open de France – the second tournament in the European Tour’s Rolex Series.

Fleetwood has been in superb form this season, winning the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in January and claiming a further four top finishes – including fourth place in the U.S. Open Championship earlier this month. He converted that consistency into second title of the year courtesy of an assured display of front running over the Le Golf National, making up a one shot overnight deficit when he came within millimetres of an ace on the par three second hole, before adding further birdies on the third, ninth, 13th and 14th holes to pull clear of the field.

The 26 year old finished on 12 under par for the tournament, with American Peter Uihlein putting some late pressure on him with four birdies on the back nine to claim second place on 11 under par after a closing round of 68. The victory at Le Golf National was Fleetwood’s third European Tour title and his second win over a Ryder Cup course the year before it hosts the biennial contest, having captured his maiden title in the 2013 Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.

Fleetwood was unable to make Paul McGinley’s team on that occasion, but will surely now be targeting a spot in Thomas Bjørn’s side in 2018, with the victory moving him into the World’s Top 15 for the first time, while the 1,040,824 points he earns for winning the second Rolex Series event ensures he returns to the top of the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex, ahead of Masters Tournament Champion Sergio Garcia.

Runner-up Uihlein just missed out on his second European Tour title, but he has the consolation of claiming one of the three qualifying spots on offer for The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. Sweden’s Alexander Björk (71) and France’s Mike Lorenzo-Vera (66), the leading home player, secured the other two places, finishing on eight under par and in a share of third position alongside Denmark’s Thorbjørn Olesen (65).

Spain’s Jon Rahm finished tied tenth in his debut European Tour appearance on European soil, closing with a round of 69 for a five under par total – the same mark as former World Number One Lee Westwood (70) and Alex Noren (70), the winner of the inaugural Rolex Series event, the BMW PGA Championship.

Fleetwood said: “Today, it’s a day that I’ll never forget; the way I felt coming down the stretch, the holes and the shots you have to hit. And yeah, winning, it’s the best feeling by far in golf, and to do it on this golf course in this event, a Rolex Series event, you know, massive, massive bonuses, I guess.

“Saturday I had to use different parts of my game. I know everybody talks about my ball-striking when it’s good, but I felt like Saturday was equally impressive, just in a different way. I had to use my short game a lot, and I had to stay patient enough to stay in the tournament when I wasn’t playing well.

“I think the way I started hitting it early on, it was clear that my swing was with me. I felt good. The only problems that I could have was that if I got in my own way; if I started thinking negatively; if I started backing away; if I started worrying about what was going on around me. As long as I trusted myself and as long as I concentrated on where I wanted to hit it, my start lines, my finish lines, just like we’ve talked about all week, I felt that was the only thing to do.

“The better I played and sort of the further the round got on, it’s always difficult to keep your excitement down because you’re in with a chance and it was looking good with a four-shot lead and four to play. But like I say, those last few holes make you hit the shots. You can’t back out. Either hit good shots or, yeah, you’re in trouble.”

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