TOMMY FLEETWOOD reinforced his reputation as a British Bulldog capable of handling the toughest courses as he opened the USPGA with a superb three under par 67.
Top four finishes at the last two US Opens have proved Fleetwood is happy to scrap it out, and he admitted he was relishing the battle at ultra-difficult Bethpage.
He said: “It is only once in a while where they have these Major set-ups to really test every part of our game to the limit, and I enjoy the challenge.
“It doesn’t always go right, but I enjoy playing on the toughest tracks. I enjoy getting in a dogfight out there with the hardest courses in the world. And I love playing over here. I love the positivity, and I love the support that I get.”
Fleetwood could have been forgiven for being slightly jaded after flying straight to New York from the British Masters, where he acted as both host and the main attraction.
But he added: “I feel absolutely fine. I had a bit of a virus last week, but I’ve recovered, and I feel so much better. It felt good getting here and preparing for a golf course I absolutely love.
“I always get a buzz out of preparing for the Major courses. It creates a passion for it and an adrenaline that keeps you going. And making six birdies also helps. That is a lot around here. It’s probably more than I thought I would get.”
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Fellow Englishman Matt Wallace was also among the select band of early starters to shoot an under par score with his 69 – there were only seven scores in the 60s on the board when the afternoon wave took their turn.
Tyrrell Hatton looked like joining them as he played the first 12 holes in two under par – but three late bogeys saw him finish on one under.
World No 2 Justin Rose was a shot better off after a 70 featuring four birdies and the same number of bogeys, but former world No 1 Lee Westwood slumped to a fie over par 75.