Some self-quarantines are better than others.
Englishman Tommy Fleetwood spent 14 days in the Hamptons on the East End of Long Island playing several of American golf’s crown jewels. At Shinnecock Hills, Fleetwood nearly matched the final-round 63 he shot at the 2018 U.S. Open there to finish second to Brooks Koepka, settling for a 64 this time and beating his caddie, Ian Finnis, by nine strokes.
There were also rounds just to its north where golf’s most famous windmill marks the adjacent National Golf Links of America, one of golf’s timeless classics, as well as Friar’s Head, a modern-day gem that has added to the embarrassment of golfing riches on this spit of land known as the South Fork.
Now it is back to work for the 29-year-old Fleetwood at this week’s 3M Open in Blaine, Minnesota. Fleetwood flew home to England following the cancellation of the Players Championship on March 11 due to the coronavirus, and enjoyed four months of watching his 2-year-old son Frankie grow up, and trying his hand in the kitchen.
“Chicken Milanese I did a very poor effort on,” he said. “That was when I decided my career as a chef was over.”
Fleetwood is one of the last PGA Tour stars to return to action since play resumed in June along with Australian Adam Scott, who is reportedly self-quarantining this week ahead of the season’s first major, the PGA Championship, to be held at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco in two weeks. In May, Fleetwood was adamant that he wouldn’t be traveling back and forth.
“I’m not going to travel to America and stay away for four months,” Fleetwood told The Guardian. “That is simply not a consideration.”
Instead, Fleetwood bided his time at home and plans to spend nine weeks in the U.S. through the U.S. Open in September and will have to rely on video calls to communicate with his family, which returned to England.
“It was always going to be like that with the way the quarantine rules are with coming into this country and doing the two weeks, and if I ever was going to go home, I had to do two weeks in the and that pretty much determined how it was going to play out,” he said. “Like I say, I’m now in a nine-week stretch where I’m going to work hard and play hard and see how well we can do.”
Fleetwood has won five times on the European Tour, but he is still seeking that elusive first victory on the PGA Tour. He held the 54-hole lead at the Honda Classic in February, but shot 1-over 71 in the final round and finished third. Fleetwood is ranked No. 12 in the world, better than anyone without a PGA Tour title, and his 16 top-10 finishes since the 2016-17 season are second-most of anyone without a win in that span, trailing only Tony Finau (29).
While Fleetwood’s European Ryder Cup teammate Francesco Molinari recently announced plans to move his permanent residence from London to California, Fleetwood said that the travel restrictions haven’t led to any consideration of taking up full-time residence in the United States.
“Hopefully it’s a one-off situation,” he said of the travel restrictions and need to self-quarantine. “The way the world is, nothing is that far away.”
Fleetwood could have stayed and competed in a series of events in England that begin this week on the European Tour with the British Masters, but the potential payout on the PGA Tour and allure of competing for majors was too much to pass up.
“I just think that with the way the golfing calendar is, the majors, WGCs, the FedEx , it’s likely I was going to come over here and play these,” he said, “which I think is the right thing to do.”