Fleetwood has New Yorkers dancing to his tune – but the record is stuck
There hasn’t been a Brit this popular in New York since The Beatles. A man clearly showing the effects of one Michelob too many has his voice stuck like one of the Fab Four’s skipping LPs when he spies Tommy Fleetwood waiting to play on the 11th green.
“I love you Tommy” (you’ve got to pronounce the name like you’ve just watched Goodfellas for the thousandth time) he foghorns over and over at a decibel that demands ear defenders.
The object of this desire looks a little bemused by all the fuss. Shane Lowry, who is trying to fashion a tricky chip in the middle of this maelstrom, is even less enthralled.
Soon enough a smattering is singing that song – the one that should only remind them of the national humiliation they were subjected to just eight months ago at the Ryder Cup.
They belt it out like an ode to love. When the sports fans in this metropolis, a collective that can become all cigars and spit the more the beer flows, adopt you as one of their own then you’ve truly got it made.
As we all got ever more hysterical about the brutality of Bethpage Black and the length of the rough, and how it would send our precious tour talents reaching for the bottle, Fleetwood might have been thrilled to reach halfway at two under.
Brooks Koepka, though, has taken everyone’s pre-tournament preconceptions and smoked them like one of his booming drives.
And as others tried – welcome back Jordan Spieth – to hang on to his coattails as he stretched his lead to seven, ‘Toawmy’ dampened the ardour of his growing band of followers by putting his charge into full reverse.
For 11 holes it had been easy and without drama. A 10-footer dropped at the first for birdie and the effortless combination of fairways and greens was almost hypnotic.
When he picked up shots back-to-back at the 8th and 9th, both putts tracking at a perfect pace to find the bottom, he was the one who was going to chase Koepka down.
We were all sure of it.
But as the afternoon got warmer and stickier, Fleetwood wilted – the eyes suddenly blinking in confusion – as he bogeyed four of the last seven to drop back into the pack.
Those pupils were only staring when it was done. None of us, neither him nor his new adoring Stateside public, could quite explain what had happened.
“I was in a good position at one point,” he said. “Now not so much.
“It is what it is and golf is four days. I had a bad few and that’s it. It was a disappointing finish but we will reset tomorrow and do the best we can.”