By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 07/08/20 10:46pm
Tommy Fleetwood believes his experience of being in the thick of contention in previous majors will stand him in good stead for a weekend challenge at the PGA Championship.
Fleetwood was disappointed with his opening 70 at TPC Harding Park, but he made the most of better scoring conditions on Friday morning and carded seven birdies in a 64 which hoisted him to six under par – just two behind early second-round leader Li Haotong.
The Englishman has endured near-misses at majors before, playing the final group of last year’s Open with Shane Lowry and almost pulling off a shock win in the 2018 US Open at Shinnecock Hills, where he closed with a 63 but missed two excellent birdie chances on each of the last two holes.
“I’m the same person. I’ve just got a little bit more experience,” he said. “If you look at it, was I playing better at Shinnecock? Maybe, but that might only be because I’ve only played two weeks since coming back.
“But I feel the same, with a few more majors under my belt of experience. Hopefully they stand me in good stead over the weekend. Any time you’re in contention for a major, it’s an experience, and I feel like I’ve done it a few times, so every time you learn.
“Every time these weeks come about you just prepare for it to be your week, and today was a great day. Got a weekend of golf left. We’ll see.
“Majors are the toughest tests in general, and when you’re playing up against the best players in the world and on the hardest golf courses, hopefully it’s going to bring the best out of you. But it tests every single aspect of your game mentally and physically, and I’ve always enjoyed that.
“I think going on majors in the past, you can class it as lucky or unlucky but I’ve played with quite a few of the winners of the last few majors, and it’s always good to see what they do.
Get the best prices and book a round at one of 1,700 courses across the UK & Ireland
“You’re obviously concentrating on your own game but you see how the events pan out and you see how the guys go and win those events. That in your mind can only do you good, I guess, because you’ve watched it and seen it. Any time you’re in contention it’s just experience. You learn things about yourself and how those events unfold.”
Fleetwood’s experienced compatriot Paul Casey also enjoyed a profitable morning, firing a 67 to get to five under par and admitting it was a rarity for him to hand in a card with no bogeys on it.
“That makes a change,” said Casey, who birdied two of his first three holes and added one more in a solid day’s work. “I played really well on a glorious day for golf.
“It’s weird, the first three days of practice that I saw here at Harding Park presented an incredibly difficult test of golf, and then the last two days have been quite generous actually which is nice as a player. It’s not quite as intimidating when you step on that tee.
“It was a joy to be out there playing with Webb Simpson and Ian Poulter, and we had a blast. We cruised around, I played some wonderful golf, and very, very happy with what I shot.”
But Casey also reiterated his problems in dealing with the lack of atmosphere with no spectators permitted, and he added: “I’ve actually really struggled with not having fans out. I’ve really missed it, plain and simple.
Live PGA Championship Golf
August 8, 2020, 6:00pm
“I’ve felt I’ve not been able to sort of just get the excitement going, lacking energy and all that goes with having fans at a sporting event at a golf tournament, I just genuinely miss it.
“I felt very flat, as I’m sure you guys, too. Life away from the golf course here is also quite flat. We would always go out. You’d go out and have dinners and hang out with people and none of that exists now as we know it. So the whole for me, yeah, I’ve not really enjoyed being out playing golf.”