ORLANDO – It’s easy to get caught up in launch angles and spin rates these days, breaking down the game of golf through every measurement imaginable.
We want to figure out what’s responsible for the really good days, like Tommy Fleetwood’s 6-under 66 to shoot to the top of the Arnold Palmer Invitational leaderboard in Round 2.
The answer isn’t always complicated.
“Straight. Very straight,” said Fleetwood’s caddie, Ian Finnis. “Really just hit it very straight.”
The 28-year-old Englishman hit 11-of-14 fairways and had a pair of eagles to get to 9-under overall for the week. He was three shots clear of the field by the time he finished up Friday afternoon under clear skies at Bay Hill, a course that suits the Ryder Cup star very well.
Fleetwood finished T-26 a year ago and T-10 during his API debut in 2017. Like Finnis, he offered a straightforward explanation.
“Some courses you play well at, some courses you don’t,” Fleetwood said Friday. “Hopefully I can continue to play well around here. It was just nice to have a day like that and just constantly feel at ease really with hitting good golf shots.”
Fleetwood has five international wins, most recently at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, but he’s still looking for the first PGA Tour victory. That resume is 45 starts deep and includes 11 top-10 finishes with a runner-up at the 2018 U.S. Open.
He is undoubtedly a star and sits No. 14 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Now he just needs a signature stateside win.
“I think that’s pretty clear in our minds that that would be the next logical step, to win in America or win on the PGA Tour and then see where we can go from there,” Fleetwood said.
Finnis says next week’s Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass is another great track for Fleetwood, but the one really gets their juices flowing is about 300 miles north of Ponte Vedra, Fla.
“I’m licking my chops for the Masters,” Finnis said. “The Masters is always a good course for him. … People go on about the (British Open). The Open is good for him. Obviously he wants to win the Open. But the Masters is just a good course for him.”
Fleetwood averages 300-plus yards off the tee with better accuracy than most young bombers. His natural draw fits perfectly at Augusta National, where he finished T-17 a year ago.
“If he putts half-decent …” Finnis says, his voice trailing off thinking about the possibilities that await next month.
There’s still room for improvement in that department. Fleetwood was outside the top 50 in the field in strokes gained putting through two rounds – He’s been picking this course apart tee-to-green.
Another shot at the Masters is rapidly approaching, but Fleetwood now has a very real chance to pick off his first career Tour victory at the house that Arnold Palmer built. That would also mean adding a red sweater awarded to all API winners in tribute to this tournament’s namesake.
“It’s one of those special events that means a lot, that means something a little bit more,” Fleetwood said. “So it would be very cool if that was my first win. I can find a place for a red cardigan in my wardrobe, no worries.”