Tommy Fleetwood in major hunt again

SAN FRANCISCO — Everybody has decisions.

Within the COVID-19 age we dwell in, high-level athletes have been confronted with decisions they by no means dreamt they might encounter.

As an alternative of selecting between flying non-public or top notch, for instance, now they’re selecting whether or not to play on or choose out.

Sure, “choose out’’ is among the many new phrases which have been sadly added to the 2020 lexicon.

High gamers from the NBA, Main League Baseball and the NFL have made the selection to “choose out’’ of the 2020 season as a solution to be as cautious as attainable with the coronavirus, to not contract it themselves or — worse but — deliver it dwelling to their households.

Earlier than this week’s PGA Championship started, some 15 gamers withdrew from the sector at Harding Park, most of whom cited COVID-19 considerations as the rationale.

Among the many most outstanding names have been former PGA Championship winner Padraig Harrington, Englishman Lee Westwood and former British Open champion Francesco Molinari. Thomas Pieters and Eddie Pepperell additionally selected to not play regardless of being certified for the sector.

The frequent denominator to these 5 names: They’re all primarily based in Europe.

Tommy Fleetwood, a local of England, selected to play as an alternative of opting out, and that’s a very good factor contemplating he’ll enter the weekend with an awesome probability to win his first profession main championship.

Tommy Fleetwood
Tommy FleetwoodGetty Photographs

Fleetwood, who shot a tournament-low 64 in Friday’s second spherical, completed his day two shots out of the lead held by the surprising Haotong Li.

Golfers opting out has change into a hot-button subject up to now two months because the PGA Tour restart of its schedule again in June. Harrington and Molinari, for instance, haven’t competed in any respect because the pandemic paused all sports activities in March.

Harrington and Westwood have implied that they didn’t really feel secure coming to the U.S. as a result of there are such a lot of virus scorching spots popping up in all places and that locations like Eire and England, their respective houses, have performed a greater job of flattening the curve.

It’s not good enterprise to criticize any athletes for opting out in an effort to maintain themselves and their households secure.

Fleetwood stated after his stellar spherical on Friday that he spent quite a lot of time weighing what was finest to do.

“I feel you assess the state of affairs week in, week out in the meanwhile and see how everyone feels, and I don’t assume there’s a proper or incorrect reply to what anyone does,’’ Fleetwood stated Friday. “I knew every time I did come over to the States there was a two-week quarantine and I knew I used to be going to spend a protracted stretch. You seemed on the schedule and … beginning final week, there was a WGC, there’s a serious this week, you then’re working your method into the [FedExCup] playoffs after which there’s a U.S. Open, so there’s a protracted stint of huge occasions.’’

Paul Casey, an Englishman who makes his dwelling in Arizona, understands the plight of his fellow Europeans who opted to not make the journey this week.

“I don’t know what I’d have performed,’’ Casey conceded after taking pictures 67 Friday to get to 5-under for the match. “I’ve a younger household, as most of these guys you’ve talked about do [Westwood, Harrington et al]. However you realize, the Tour has principally given us a free cross this yr on exemptions. So, you select a man even like Francesco Molinari, who we haven’t seen but again on Tour, his place, his eligibility won’t change for subsequent season. So, there isn’t any stress [to play].’’

Fleetwood got here to the U.S. from England final month and he did it in model, quarantining along with his household for 2 weeks within the Hamptons. Whereas there, he performed a number of the golf gems, together with Shinnecock Hills, the place he almost gained the 2018 U.S. Open with a final-round 63, in addition to Nationwide Golf Hyperlinks and Friar’s Head.

Fleetwood gained the unofficial award for finest quarantine. Now maybe he can win his first main.

“I’m the identical individual,’’ Fleetwood stated when requested to match himself now to 2018. “I really feel the identical, I suppose, with a couple of extra majors beneath my belt of expertise. Hopefully, they stand me in good stead over the weekend. Each time these weeks come about you simply hope … you put together for it to be your week. As we speak was an awesome day. Obtained a weekend of golf left. We’ll see.’’

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