Having welcomed an addition to his family last week, Tommy Fleetwood so proudly added an entry to his rapidly-expanding CV on Friday. A course-record 63 anywhere is impressive, but at Carnoustie it verges on the remarkable.
Dubbed the “Beast of Angus”, the links is widely regarded as one of the toughest courses in the game, having claimed many scalps of the decades, most infamously that of Jean van de Velde at the 1999 Open. But For Fleetwood it was not a case of “Carnasty”, but “Carnicey” as he waltzed around with nine birdies and nine pars, including a three on the 18th where the Frenchman took that treble-bogey seven 18 years ago.
The 26-year-old’s nine-under magnificence hauled him to 11-under and into a tie for the Dunhill Links Championship lead with fellow Englishman Tyrrell Hatton.
“Carnoustie course record holder – it sounds good doesn’t it? It was a good day’s work by any standards,” Fleetwood said. “When you consider all the great players who have played here, in Opens and in this tournament, it is very special to have the lowest score ever recorded on this course. Yeah, I hit it in some places where you probably won’t be able to get able to hitting it when the Open comes back here next year, but I’m still very proud.”
On Wednesday, Fleetwood spoke about the “nappy factor” and the curious trend of new fathers winning on Tour and said he understood why those such as Danny Willett managed to ride the euphoric wave all the way to glory at last year’s Masters. In truth, however, he did not come here expecting much after the birth of Franklin last Thursday.
Race to Dubai
“I wasn’t sure what to expect this week, because I thought I’d be pretty rusty after taking five of the last six weeks off and everything that’s been happening at home,” he said. “But I was pleasantly surprised with how I hit it when I turned up on the range on Tuesday. Sometimes the best rounds happen when you don't quite realise what you're doing.”
There were five red figures in a row in Fleetwood’s back-nine 30, as he leapt up the leaderboard. In contrast, his playing partner, Rory McIlroy treaded water, shooting a 71, which would have been far worse but for three birdies coming in.
McIlroy is on level par down in a tie for 98th and needs to go low at Kingsbarns tomorrow if his last event of the season is not to end in a missed cut. The world No 6 could only look on at Fleetwood and recall those golfing days when everything seemed so easy.
If Fleetwood was to win his third title of the year at St Andrews then the Harry Vardon Trophy, awarded to the European Tour’s order of merit winner, will surely be all but his. “Let's concentrate on tomorrow first,” Fleetwood said. “I would love to win a tournament. I'd love to win this tournament.
“With such big events coming up, I don't think anything will be over until it's finally done. But if I can keep making that cushion a little bit bigger, then it will feel a lot nicer.”
He and Hatton, whose 65 was the second best score of the day at Carnoustie, hold a one-shot advantage over Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts, with Germany’s Marcel Siem and Ireland’s Paul Dunne – who won last week’s British Masters – in a tie for fourth on nine-under.