July 3, 2017 / 1:08 PM / 2 years ago

Fleetwood prepares for special homecoming at British Open

LONDON, England (Reuters) - Tommy Fleetwood’s dramatic win at the French Open pushed his world ranking to a career-high 15 on Monday, as the 26-year-old looked forward to being thrust center stage in England’s sporting summer.

FILE PHOTO - Jun 18, 2017; Erin, WI, USA; Tommy Fleetwood walks off the fifth tee during the final round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Erin Hills. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Partly by dint of his recent form, which also saw him finish fourth at the US Open, and partly by accident of birth, he will be under the spotlight this month when the British Open is staged at Royal Birkdale, a few miles up the Lancashire coast from Fleetwood’s Southport birthplace.

It should prove an emotional homecoming for the local lad who used to sneak into one of England’s most prestigious clubs to hit a few shots because his tarmac-layer father could not afford the sky-high green fees.

Money, of course, is no longer an issue and Sunday’s $1.3 million pay check from Le Golf National took his 2017 earnings to $2.4 million and career winnings past the $11 million mark.

That eye-watering figure will rise further should he become the first English winner of a British Open for 25 years later this month.

“Birkdale is going to be a massive week for me,” he said last month. “I’m going to be playing in front of crowds that I never have before and people that I have grown up with. It’s going to be an amazing experience from start to finish.”

Fleetwood’s engaging manner makes him a natural for the media glare which will surround him. But the formbook suggests Fleetwood has every right to be considered among the favorites to win at the links course he knows better than anyone.

Sunday’s win was his second of the season and third of his career, and he is 800,000 pounds ($1.0 million) ahead of second-placed Sergio Garcia, the US Masters champion, in the Race to Dubai money list.

“That is a real goal now,” Fleetwood said on Sunday. “It’s difficult because I was a long way ahead early on and then Sergio won the Masters and then I was a million points behind. But yeah, it’s great to be leading the Race to Dubai.

“It is something that I’ll look at now and no matter what happens, come the last event, I’m going to have a chance of winning the Order of Merit. That’s something that will be very special.

“Life’s just been great. I’m engaged, expecting a baby, my fiancée is my manager, my caddie’s one of my best mates in the world. Thommo (Alan Thompson), I think, is the best coach in the world – everybody around me I have really strong relationships with, and when you enjoy doing your job that’s a massive positive.”

And it will get even better should he secure a British Open victory in front of his home fans on the course that helped forge his career.

($1 = 0.7710 pounds)

Reporting by Neil Robinson; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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