Golf

Tommy Fleetwood ready to embrace hostile US atmosphere in first away Ryder Cup

Tommy Fleetwood has revealed he is relishing the chance to play in his first ever Ryder Cup away from home, and in front of a hostile American crowd at Whistling Straits this month.

Fleetwood was one of the first five European players to be confirmed as part of Padraig Harrington’s team alongside Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Paul Casey and rookie Viktor Hovland.

For many the Ryder Cup can be one of the most daunting stages in the world of golf, however the Englishman took to the matchplay event with ease, securing four points on debut alongside partner Francesco Molinari in Europe’s 2018 victory at Le Golf National.

However, a Ryder Cup on away soil is a whole different beast. The Whistling Straits crowd will no doubt be American dominated, and even more so than normal due to travel difficulties created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In spite of this, Fleetwood is more than looking forward to being part of an away team for the very first time. He said: “It will be different over there, I have only played in one Ryder Cup and we had the home crowd on our side. 

“I’m also used to having fans on my side pretty much every week. I’m not expecting them to be in my favor though. And it’s fine for anyone not to support us. Everyone gets heckled a little bit at times. It will be another challenge, another experience.”

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To get a taste of what it really can be like when playing in one of golf’s greatest battles as an away side, Fleetwood revealed he had spoken to a number of the experienced players within the European camp for some insight.

He added: “I’ve been listening to guys like Poults, Lee and Paul Casey, guys who have done it a few times. They all say the same thing. You have to embrace it. You have to enjoy it in a way. That’s the only way you can thrive in that atmosphere. 

“I can’t wait to see how it goes. I’ll be over there with my 11 teammates, the captains and our backroom staff. We become a family when we are there. I’m really excited about doing that with a new group of lads.”

Whilst the 30-year-old has his place at Whistling Straits nailed on, the completion of Europe’s 12-man team is far from complete with one week of qualifying to go at this week’s BMW PGA Championship.

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As a result, four automatic spots and three wildcard places are up for grabs, and several of the field at Wentworth have a chance of joining Fleetwood in Wisconsin in two weeks’ time.

Discussing the openness of the team’s remaining spots, the Englishman commented: “We were talking about the team the other night at dinner. Right now, it is so hard to predict and work out. There is just so much going on.

“I take my lead from guys like Lee, who have so much experience. He is just putting his head down and playing. Having said that, everyone in contention is going to be watching Bernd Wiesberger. There is no shying away from that.”

With plenty of the BMW PGA Championship field hoping for a Ryder Cup spot, one man who will not be in the running is Fleetwood’s trusty 2018 partner, Molinari.

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Following his remarkable Ryder Cup appearance, and Open Championship triumph three years ago, the Italian has slipped away from the world’s best in recent years thus costing him a chance to repeat his 2018 heroics at this year’s event.

Speaking about how his Italian companion helped him in his maiden Ryder Cup, Fleetwood hopes he can play a similar role to someone else at Whistling Straits.

He commented: “I was so lucky last time to have that sort of partnership in my first Ryder Cup. When Fran was there, he was the most comfortable person I could be out with. I would love to play that role for someone else. I’d want my partner to feel that comfortable, thrive and play their best golf. 

“I’m interested to see how the pairings go and how we all match up. I really do get on well with all the guys. And I like to think everyone would be fine about partnering up with me. But we’ll see. Whatever happens, we’ll all be giving it our best.”

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