• Alistair Tait

Tommy Fleetwood belongs to select golf club


Tommy Fleetwood has done pretty well for himself despite playing on what Paul Azinger contemptuously refers to as “that European Tour.” The 29-year-old Englishman might not have won five European Tour events, won the Race to Dubai, placed second in two majors and reached ninth in the world if he’d won the 2008 Amateur Championship.


No doubt Azinger probably calls the game’s first premier amateur event “that British Amateur Championship.” Do you think Zinger’s still upset at appearing on the 2002 losing U.S. Ryder Cup team to players from “that European Tour?” You’d have thought he’d got over that after brilliantly captaining the 2008 U.S. team to victory.


Enough Azinger. On to more affable matters and probably the most affable European Tour player.


Fleetwood just missed out on his first PGA Tour, but he won’t be depressed about third place in the Honda Classic for long. This Englishman will win more than one tournament on that PGA Tour before he’s finished.


The Southport player belongs to a unique club of recent Amateur Championship runners up who have gone on to better professional careers than the players who beat them.


Fleetwood lost to Reinier Saxton in the 2008 Amateur Championship at Turnberry. The Dutchman defeated the then 17 year old 3&2.


Back then I naturally assumed Saxton would go on to have the better professional career.


Wrong!


Nice guy Saxton, good company too as my guest at the 2008 Association of Golf Writers dinner at Royal Birkdale. I maybe should have taken Tommy.


Saxton is currently ranked 1,690 places below Fleetwood on the Official World Golf Ranking at number 1,700. He’s never found any traction whatsoever on the European Tour. In 2012, his only full season on that European Tour, he finished 261st on the money list. He’s made six appearances at the European Tour Qualifying School, five of them failed attempts. Saxton has never won on the European Challenge Tour, and placed 117th on that tour’s money list last season. His best showing on the junior circuit is 29th in 2016.


I’ve learned since 2008 that sometimes finishing Amateur Championship runner up is no bad thing. Fleetwood is part of a select club that includes Matthias Schwab, Zander Lombard and Robert MacIntyre.


Schwab lost to Northern Ireland’s Alan Dunbar at Royal Troon in the 2012 Amateur. Dunbar has long since given up on his European Tour dream while Schwab is one of the most exciting young prospects on that European Tour. He had two runner-up finishes last year, including the Turkish Airlines Open.


Lombard played second fiddle to Scotland’s Bradley Neil at Royal Portrush in 2014. The South African finished 62nd on last year’s Race to Dubai and is ranked 197th in the world. Neil is still on the Challenge Tour and clocks in at 997th on the world ranking.


MacIntrye was last year’s rookie of the year on that European Tour and is world number 67. He lost the 2016 Amateur to England’s Scott Gregory who finished 283rd on last year’s Race to Dubai and is back on the Challenge Tour. He’s the world’s 1660th ranked player.


Sometimes it pays not to win the Amateur Championship. Tommy Fleetwood, Matthias Schwab, Zander Lombard and Robert MacIntyre can vouch for that.

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