The Players: Tommy Fleetwood takes early lead after superb 65
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 14/03/19 6:50pm
Tommy Fleetwood is keen to play down lofty expectations of him on the PGA Tour as he made a flying start to The Players Championship.
Fleetwood defied strengthening breezes over the second half of his opening round and covered the front nine in just 30 shots, with birdies at each of his last three holes capping a bogey-free 65 which earned him the early clubhouse lead on seven under.
The Englishman has been widely tipped to record his first win on the PGA Tour in the near future, and he admitted that dealing with those expectations has been "tricky".
But he gave himself the ideal platform to challenge for his first victory in the US with his seven-birdie opener, in which he was just one under at the turn before putting together a superb second nine.
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"There are pros and cons, and it's the expectations that are a tricky thing really because it can always lead to different sides," Fleetwood said. "But I love it out here, and I love playing out here. Since I've played out here more regularly, it's improved my game because I feel like there's different tests and it tests different sides of your game.
"It's clearly the next step for me to win over here, but winning is not easy, and I've just got to keep plugging away, keep doing the right things and focus on myself. Hopefully that will come, but there's no point in sort of not thinking about it or letting people do the talking.
"Clearly that's sort of what the next thing that's going to happen, and everybody's career goes in those stages, and hopefully mine will be the same."
Fleetwood is making only his third appearance in the PGA Tour's flagship tournament, but he can draw on positive memories of his second outing last year when a pair of 68s over the weekend earned him a top-seven finish.
"I played really well, especially on that front nine," he added. "I hit a lot of solid shots and stayed patient when the wind picked up and the course got tough. There were some tough holes there, but I kind of drove it so well that I was always in a good position.
"If you're in the fairway all the time, the course feels very, very different, and it's a massive key around here, and then I just started picking a few shots up, and then you get on a run like seven, eight and nine, and it feels great after that.
"I love the course. If you like golf, you should like this golf course really. It's just about as fair as you're going to get a test. If you hit it well like I did today, you're going to have chances and you can shoot a score, and people are shooting scores.
"But you can also get it the other way, as soon as you start struggling and start going the other way, it can easily go against you, and I think it's an amazing golf course for that, not because I've played well today, but as a test of golf and for somewhere to play, I think it's great."