LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA | Few men have shot rounds of 63 in a U.S. Open, though Johnny Miller famously did so at Oakmont, that testing course on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, 50 years ago as he won his first major championship. Fewer still record two such scores in U.S. Opens. And rarer still is the golfer who goes ’round in 63 at two different U.S. Opens on a Sunday.
Step forward Englishman Tommy Fleetwood, 32, who became the first man to record two scores of 63 or better in U.S. Opens. Had Fleetwood’s 4-foot putt on the 72nd at Los Angeles Country Club’s North Course disappeared into the hole instead of sliding right of it, he would have joined Americans Rickie Fowler and Xander Schauffele from the first round here Thursday as the only players to shoot 62 – 8-under-par – at a U.S. Open venue.
“It has been a good day and a good week for me,” Fleetwood said Sunday, tugging at his distinctive long hair. “But I must say it’s a stupid game, isn’t it? It really messes with your head.”
Considering how well Fleetwood had putted all week, it was ironic that his remarkable fourth round in the 123rd U.S. Open should have started with a missed 4-foot putt on the first hole and ended with that short one that grazed the hole on the 72nd.
The outward nine at LACC had played significantly easier than the inward nine for most of last week. When Fleetwood reached the turn in 5-under 30, birdied the 11th and then eagled the 14th, Ian Finnis, his caddie, thought “he could shoot anything today.” Hitting into a bunker on No. 16 caused Fleetwood to drop his only shot of the day. He finished at 5-under 275 in a tie for fifth. It was his sixth career top-10 result in a major championship, including three of his past six major starts.
“I hit some amazing golf shots today: for instance, the tee shot on the sixth and then the 5-wood into the 11th,” said Fleetwood, a six-time winner on his home DP World Tour who is still looking for his first PGA Tour title. “Those two shots stood out for me, but the 15-foot putt I holed for par on the fifth and the eagle on the sixth were huge, as well.”
Said Finnis: “It leaves a slightly sour taste in the mouth [that we didn’t shoot 62]. I should be happy, but I’m not. Tommy couldn’t have hit it better than he did.”
A journalist asked Fleetwood: “Shinnecock in ’18 [when he surged up the leaderboard to finish second, one stroke behind Brooks Koepka], and now today. What is it about Sundays at the U.S. Open and you?”
“I guess I need to be higher up the leaderboard coming into Sunday and then have another day like today,” Fleetwood replied, a slight smile on his face.