Tommy Fleetwood hails Ryder Cup atmosphere at Royal Portrush as he prepares himself for partisan Open duel with Shane Lowry
He's going to be the underdog tomorrow, and, if he pulls it off, maybe the most disliked one at that.
But all Tommy Fleetwood wants to do tomorrow is spoil the home party at Royal Portrush and claw his way back over overwhelming favourite - both in terms of popularity and chances of winning - Shane Lowry to lift the Claret Jug.
An outstanding atmosphere, hailed by many as the best they have ever experienced at an Open Championship, followed Offaly man Lowry all day, roaring him on to a sensational 63 and a four-shot lead going into day four.
That is what Fleetwood will have to contend with if he wants to become the Champion Golfer, and he'll probably have to make a fair few enemies in order to do so.
But the affable 28-year-old, who tees off at 1.47pm tomorrow alongside Lowry, has experience of this kind of an atmosphere having been a part of the incredible Ryder Cup in Paris last year.
Back then he had the crowd for him and not against him, but Fleetwood insists he can use that tomorrow - because the atmosphere at Royal Portrush has been so similar.
"The Ryder Cup is pretty much that with a few more people," said the Southport man.
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"Look, it was great today. And I think I've just been saying on the way down here, I think people watching today, if they're not into golf, I think it's amazing for the sport.
"I think the tournament has done itself proud today. They've shown how great the game is and how good it is to watch.
"The atmosphere for us as golfer was just great. I loved it. For or against you, you can't help but appreciate and love what today was and what tomorrow is going to be.
"Tomorrow is not going to be any quieter and for sure, tomorrow playing with Shane, last day,it's going to be more challenging to control yourself in the atmosphere and being in the middle of that. But that's what we're here for."
On any other day, the World No.20 probably would have been leading the tournament himself or, at the very least, been a lot closer to the leaders than four strokes back.
A sublime five-under 66, which was blemish-free and saw him finish with a solidly consistent six pars, took him two shots clear of third-placed JB Holmes as one of the best players of the day.
In fact, had Lowry not carded his sensational 63, it would be Fleetwood drawing all the plaudits. Instead, he had to settle for second place.
"I think the last three or four holes there it was strange, really, because I'd gone bogey-free today, played really well," said Fleetwood.
"It was almost like, you know, you can easily get frustrated because Shane is doing so well and how well he's playing.
"You have to look at it realistically. I had a great day today. I had one of the best rounds of the day and I was bogey-free. Shane just played great and I'm four back.
"It was a very special occasion and a great day to be playing golf today. Happy to be in the mix. Happy to be a part of it, happy to play my part in the atmosphere today."
The weather is set to come in and be a factor tomorrow. After glorious sunshine and barely any wind greeted the afternoon starters on Saturday, the latter groups on Sunday are due to be battered by heavy rain and gusting winds up to 40mph.
It's not a complete anomaly for links golf, and it should certainly be no surprise to Fleetwood, who grew up on the links at Hillside near Liverpool where rain and high winds are more the norm than sunshine.
As a result, the bad weather isn't something Fleetwood is fearing, nor does he think it will necessarily suit him. He's just relishing being in with a shot of a maiden Major.
The four-time European Tour winner has had so much success in the game, with a Ryder Cup appearance to boot, but he is still yet to add one of golf's four most glittering prizes to his trophy cabinet.
"It's the best golfers in the world. I feel like the guys that are up there on the leaderboard, from what I've seen, are not going to be too fussed about the conditions. It's not like it's an advantage or disadvantage to anyone," insisted the Englishman.
"I personally don't mind the conditions, whatever they are. I feel like I've had some of my best rounds in terrible, terrible conditions, where I've enjoyed grinding it out. So we'll see.
"Shane's not played in sunshine and no wind all his life. So it's not going to be a problem for him, either. It's just another added script to The Open, really, the weather, which is always part of it.
"(For me) it will be one step at a time, like the usual stuff. And if the weather is really rough, you rule that out and get out of it what you can."
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