The Open 2018: My dream can become reality: Fleetwood
Tommy Fleetwood was wet and he was tired, but most of all he was smiling. Beaming.
Having barely registered on the tournament radar on Thursday with a one-over par 72, Fleetwood's surge yesterday morning took The Open by surprise but not the Merseysider himself, who was over the moon with his work in tricky conditions at Carnoustie.
"It's not a course record, but it's pretty good," Fleetwood said of his six-under 65, a round that dragged him to the top of the leaderboard until Zach Johnson's 18th-hole birdie 33 minutes later put the American into first and pushed Fleetwood down a spot.
"It was a very strong round, and I hit a lot of good shots, and probably six-under - when you're out there, you hit the shots, and when you come in, you think, yeah, that was really, really good, and it will be a tough score."
That Fleetwood hadn't even considered shooting such a low score was, he says, "an indication of how good it was".
The lifelong Evertonian shot the course record 63 at Carnoustie last summer, and then tied the best-ever US Open round with the same score at Shinnecock Hills this June. When he gets hot, there is little that can stand in his way, and on this cold, dank day on Scotland's east coast, he was scorching.
Fleetwood has such a delightful everyman quality about him. Perhaps it's the fact that he couldn't obscure just how delighted he was with such an impressive round or maybe, hearing him talk about it, it's because he almost struggles to process what he has just accomplished.
"Rounds like today, they just show you, when you play well, you're on - and I mean, you are on - I don't really think you can get a much tougher test than Shinnecock or Carnoustie really, but you're on the toughest test in golf.
"When you play well, you start shooting good scores, it's just something that you know that, if you can get it going, you can end up shooting a really low score. So to have the ability to do that is something, well, it's great really."
While he started the day behind the leading pack after a 72 in his first round, Fleetwood felt that his play had not been so bad and that there was room for immediate improvement. An early tee time on Thursday meant that the 27-year-old could spend some time on the range to make tweaks to his technique that paid off in a major way as the shots kept dropping off in the rain and wind of day two.
It means the possibility of winning The Open and ending a 26-year wait for an English champion, the sort of dream that Fleetwood has been forced now to consider as a possibility.
"Yeah, it would be… it would be very special. If I could pick one tournament in my life to win, it would be The Open. I've never been anywhere near before. So far, for two rounds, I'm up there on the leaderboard.
"I've put myself back in the tournament, and I've just got to move on from there. But just try and keep doing the same things.
"If I can hit it like I did today then, obviously, I'm going to have a lot of chances coming in over the weekend, and we'll see where that takes me."
Meanwhile, Scottish teenager Sam Locke is set to win the Silver Medal as leading amateur after making the cut at Carnoustie.
With all the other competing amateurs having failed to progress to the weekend, the 19-year-old from Aberdeen now only needs to complete all four rounds to take the award.
Locke would follow in the footsteps of four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy, who won the Silver Medal the last time the Open was held at Carnoustie in 2007.
Locke, a protege of 1999 Open champion Paul Lawrie, shot a two-over-par 73 in his second round to make it just inside the cut on three-over.