Fighting Fleetwood surges into US Open contention

Tommy Fleetwood of England waves after making a birdie on the seventh hole during the second round of the 2018 US Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club on June 15, 2018 in Southampton, New York

Southampton (United States) (AFP) – Tommy Fleetwood, battered and bruised by Shinnecock Hills, battled back with birdies at three of his last five holes Friday to surge into contention at the US Open.

As sub-par scores remained a rarity at Shinnecock Hills, the 27-year-old from Southport carded a four-under-par 66 — a nine-shot improvement on his opening 75.

From “trying to survive” during a spell of wind-driven rain in the middle of his round, Fleetwood finished 36 holes five shots off Dustin Johnson’s lead.

“It was pretty brutal for three or four holes when the rain was coming down, especially as we weren’t really prepared for it,” said the European number one.

“But I love the grind, and the feel that every part of your game is being tested to the ultimate, including your mental attitude.

“If you’re going to win a US Open, which is one of the biggest events in the world, it should be that kind of test.”

The test almost proved too much on Thursday, when Fleetwood slogged through 15 holes before making his first birdie.

“Just no matter what I did, the ball did the opposite of what I was trying to do,” he said.

After being “battered” on Thursday, Fleetwood landed the first punch on Friday, with a birdie at his opening hole — the 10th.

A bogey at 11 was one of just two blemishes on a card that featured six birdies — including a 45-foot putt at the par-three second.

“I got lucky because I hammered the putt but it went in,” said Fleetwood, who capped his round with a 25-footer at the ninth.

It was great springboard into the weekend of his third US Open.

Fleetwood finished tied for 27th at Chambers Bay in 2015 and finished fourth last year at Erin Hills — where he played in the final group with runaway champion Brooks Koepka.

While Fleetwood says that experience doesn’t offer much assistance now in the way of strategy, it does give him plenty of self-belief.

“It has shown me that I can stand up and I can compete in the biggest tournaments in the world,” he said.