Tommy Fleetwood no longer the nearly man as he lands Ryder Cup for Europe - Nick Westby
He should have had his first PGA Tour title at the Canadian Open in June but shanked his approach shot into the rough on 18 and then couldn’t beat local favourite Nick Taylor over the extra play-off holes.
He could arguably have been celebrating a first major championship victory at Royal Liverpool, a few miles down the coast from where he was brought up, in July, but for all the willing of the alcohol-fuelled galleries on the Wirral, ‘Tommy-Lad’ just couldn’t reel Brian Harman in.
But in Rome, as he was in Paris five years ago with that unbeatable ‘Molliwood’ partnership with Francesco Molinari, he found himself at the centre of the golfing universe, striking the decisive blow that won back the Ryder Cup for Europe.
He had played his part in setting it up on the opening two days, forming a formidable foursomes partnership with Rory McIlroy that won both its matches on the way to helping the hosts establish a five-point lead over the United States going into the final day. And the platform for victory was built on by wins for Rory McIlroy over Sam Burns, Viktor Hovland over Collin Morikawa, Tyrell Hatton over Harman and Jon Rahm’s half-point against Scottie Scheffler.
But it needed someone to apply the gloss, to give an expectant European crowd and a diligent captain in Luke Donald the victory they craved.
Sheffield’s Matt Fitzpatrick had an 18-footer to do it, but failed to convert as Max Homa kept the USA in with a shout.
Suddenly a wall of red got Europe jittery. Who would close out the victory, or would that golden moment elude them? Up-stepped the eminently likeable Fleetwood hitting his tee-shot on the par-four 16th onto the green and then cosying his putt up to the hole to ensure the half-point against Rickie Fowler that secured the Ryder Cup.
Fleetwood’s name now goes up in European Ryder Cup lore alongside the likes of Paul McGinley, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell and Jamie Donaldson – men who struck the clinching blow in a Ryder Cup.