Tommy Fleetwood: ‘It was a big loss … mum supported me when I was playing badly’

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The tears could easily have been mistaken for ones of joy. The three years between Tommy Fleetwood’s victory at the Nedbank Challenge of 2019 and repeat glory in November failed to return a victory. They included a “terrible” run of form and a front-row seat as the United States celebrated a Ryder Cup trouncing of Europe. As Fleetwood held off Ryan Fox by one shot, he was entitled to deep reflection. One of the world’s finest golfers was back where he belonged.

There was, however, far deeper reasoning. Fleetwood’s mother, Sue, died at the age of 60 in July. In South Africa, he was understandably hit by a kaleidoscope of thoughts. “That was the emotional part,” Fleetwood says. “I wasn’t emotional about winning. I felt very calm that day, I enjoyed playing and coming down the stretch. My mindset was good, I was playing really well.

“At the last, it was just one of those moments. Mum had supported me through all the shit in 2021, when I was playing badly. Simple messages like: ‘You’ll have a good day tomorrow.’ Then the week that I win without her …” Fleetwood’s reflective expression tells the story.

He is an example of a sportsperson who battled on with a day job in the public eye as personal circumstances dictated focus must have been skewed. A social media post in the aftermath of the 150th Open revealed the death of his mother, with the length of her illness such that Fleetwood’s professional prominence – he remained comfortably in the world’s top 50 – was quite remarkable.

“She had cancer for two years,” the 31-year-old says. “She had been in and out of hospital. Obviously, you never expect her to die. You are never ready for that. She had been on and off chemo and really struggling for a while so she had been unwell for a decent amount of time.

“I went to see her on the Tuesday after the Open. She wasn’t particularly happy but looked the best I had seen her in a year and a half. I came home and said: ‘My mum looks so good today.’ She died the next morning.

“Who is ever ready for that? She was still young. She was the one person apart from my wife who texted me every day of my life. It was a big loss, a big hole. I felt for my dad, who had sat next to mum for two years and watched her suffer. They had been married for 42 years. I am proud of him for how he handled it all.”

It is typical of Fleetwood’s self-effacing style that he has no desire to dramatise things. “Everybody adapts to the situation they are going through,” he says. “I would have loved my mum and dad to have been able to travel more. They missed out on the last couple of years having been such a big part of my career. I could still enjoy going home and spending the time I was given with both of them.

“Everybody goes through family struggles at some point, you just do what you can. Mum never moaned about it, dad never moaned about it. We never made it worse than what it was.”

Fleetwood’s break from golf…

Read More: Tommy Fleetwood: ‘It was a big loss … mum supported me when I was playing badly’ 2022-12-31 21:17:00

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