US Masters: I am always going to play to win, says confident Tommy Fleetwood

Tommy Fleetwood works on his bunker shots at the practice range ahead of the Masters at Augusta National (Picture: Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP).
Tommy Fleetwood works on his bunker shots at the practice range ahead of the Masters at Augusta National (Picture: Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP).
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ENGLAND’S Tommy Fleetwood has pledged to maintain his aggressive approach as he aims to go from first to last at the Masters.

The European Ryder Cup star was the first player to hold a press conference at Augusta National yesterday afternoon; the last player to hold one on Sunday evening will do so wearing the champion’s green jacket.

Rory McIlroy uses a bit of body English as he urges a putt on the 13th hole to go in during practice for the Masters (Picture: Charlie Riedel/AP).

Rory McIlroy uses a bit of body English as he urges a putt on the 13th hole to go in during practice for the Masters (Picture: Charlie Riedel/AP).

There is, of course, the small matter of beating the other 86 players in the field, but Fleetwood carded a third round of 66 on his way to finishing 17th in the Masters last year and was third in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and fifth in the Players Championship.

“The Arnold Palmer, in particular, I built a lot of confidence that week and then the following week was as confident as I have felt on a golf course,” Fleetwood said.

“It’s strange when you have the two best finishes of the year and you’re disappointed in both of them because I really felt like I had good chances in both and I didn’t win either. But overall everything’s in really good shape.

“I feel great being here this week. This is my third time playing and you really get a sense of the difference in how you feel from year one to year two to year three. Year one it’s all so new and, not overwhelming, but there’s so much to take in and it’s your first time here. Year two you’ve been here already, so you’re more comfortable with it and it just kind of progresses to the point where, I’m not like Freddie Couples or anything like that, but I’m getting a better understanding and feeling of the tournament and the course and what that involves.”

Fleetwood’s chances of victory at Bay Hill were scuppered by a third round of 76 in the toughest conditions of the week, while he carded a closing 73 at Sawgrass after starting the day a shot off the lead.

A brilliant eagle on the 16th kept his chances of catching Rory McIlroy alive, but Fleetwood then went for the pin on the par-3 17th and found the water instead.

“I didn’t think anything of it. I was two behind with two to play and it was the only way I was going to get close to Rory,” added Fleetwood, who was fourth and second in the last two US Opens. “I am always going to play to win.

“Not that golf will ever define me as a person, but I’m never going to look back on my career and say, ‘oh I finished third in the Players’ or, ‘I finished top five in the Masters and made a couple of nice pars on the last to finish top five’.

“That’s probably something I’ll never say to my kids or grandkids. That’s not something to be that proud of.

“Winning is what it’s all about, winning big tournaments. I want to win them, not for a financial standpoint or anything. It would just be nice to have on my resume.

“Second or sixth or seventh makes a difference to your bank account and it won’t make a difference to how you see anything else.”

Bad weather disrupted the first official day of practice for the 83rd Masters, with players and spectators forced to evacuate Augusta National.

Tiger Woods and McIlroy were among the players to heed the forecast for afternoon thunderstorms and get their preparation in early.

But numerous players were still out on the course and practice range when approaching storms led tournament officials to suspend play shortly after 3pm local time.