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US PGA: Fleetwood needs to cure Saturday troubles to win a major

Tommy Fleetwood, of England, responds to a question during a news conference at the PGA Championship golf tournament at Bellerive Country Club (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Tommy Fleetwood, of England, responds to a question during a news conference at the PGA Championship golf tournament at Bellerive Country Club (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
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Tommy Fleetwood feels he is closing in on a first major title, providing he can solve the mystery of his Saturday struggles in the 100th US PGA Championship at Bellerive.

Fleetwood has been no worse than 17th in the year’s three major championships to date and famously carded a record-equalling final round of 63 in the US Open to finish just a shot behind defending champion Brooks Koepka.

But the 27-year-old from Southport was in that position at Shinnecock Hills because of a disappointing third round of 78, a situation which has occurred on other notable occasions. Fleetwood followed his course record of 63 at Carnoustie in last year’s Dunhill Links Championship with a 76 on Saturday and shot 77 in the third round of the BMW PGA Championship after a 66 on day two.

In the Open at Carnoustie a third round of 71 followed a 65 on Friday, while last week a 63 in the second round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational was backed up by a 74 on Saturday.

“I can’t really talk about my Friday nights, but I can talk about Saturdays,” Fleetwood joked. “They were poor Saturdays, but without me feeling like I did too much wrong. Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way and your bad shots can get punished when on other days they don’t.

“You notice it because Saturday has been a pretty bad day. But it has come after really hot Fridays. It’s nothing that we’re massively worried about and hopefully it doesn’t last for too long.

“Sometimes golf is just like that and it’s just a case of keep doing what you’re doing and eventually it will happen. Four days is a long time and for me it’s just not quite happened over four days for the last few weeks.

“But I feel like I’m close and closing in. Without a doubt, the next step in my career is to win in America and win a major. I feel like the tougher challenges, tougher courses have suited me this year whilst I’ve been on my game and I’ve been playing well. It’s important to keep things in perspective and realise that you could win five times in a year and not win a major, and some people would think, well, you haven’t won a major.

“But since I’ve been playing well I have a sense of confidence and belief that I totally can get over the line and win one. It’s part of the plan to hopefully have a couple of majors by the end of my career when I’m done.”

Fleetwood is one of 14 English players in the field at Bellerive looking to end the country’s winless drought in the US PGA which stretches back to Jim Barnes’s second victory – when it was still a match play event – in 1919. And the European N 1 can take heart from Francesco Molinari’s win in the Open, as well as learning from playing alongside eventual winner Justin Thomas 12 months ago.

“Last year he was four over through 16 holes, wedged it over the back on the eighth and was in a really tough spot,” Fleetwood added. “He got that up and down and birdied his last hole of the day and from there on the rest is pretty much history.

“But that was the No 1 thing that stuck out, how much he struggled in that first round but stuck in, kept that belief and kept himself in the game and ended up winning a major was the No 1 thing for me.”