European number one Tommy Fleetwood may hold the course record at Carnoustie but he is under no illusions that the 63 he shot at last October’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship was on a very different set-up to the challenge being posed at this week’s 147th Open.
The soft fairways and slow greens that provided the conditions for his nine-under-par round nine months ago have given way to fiery and fast with Carnoustie this week playing to a par of 70 over 7,402 yards rather than the par-71, 7,345-yard test it was for the Dunhill.
“It is a completely different course,” Fleetwood said. “I've never played it this firm or fast.
“Shots that you've hit have literally no relevance for a lot of it. It was definitely apparent that the difficulties this week are probably going to be putting it in play and hitting it in the fairways and go from there.
“The greens are still pretty receptive. You can tuck some pins away, but overall the greens are pretty flat. It doesn't do any harm to have played it for a few years. It doesn't do any harm to have a course record, but it's a completely different challenge to what we normally face.”
Fleetwood, 27, has arrived in Scotland having enhanced his reputation even further since claiming top spot in the Race To Dubai last season to become European number one for 2017. A victory in Abu Dhabi in January, top-20 finish at the Masters in April and tie for seventh at The Players in May helped the Englishman from Southport, Lancashire, climb the world rankings from 19th at the start of 2018 to break the top 10. He has remained at number 10 thanks to a runner-up finish at the US Open, a closing 63 as others lost their heads at Shinnecock Hills leaving him just one shot behind back-to-back champion Brooks Koepka last month.
It has left him hungry to follow up and take the next step in major championships.
“Straight after US Open, literally, you want The Open to be straight away because you're on such a high. I know I didn't win, and that was disappointing coming that close and sitting and waiting. You know, you have that momentum, so I kind of wanted it to start straight away.
“One shy is a quarter of a shot a round, so it's not really much at the end of the day.
“This week is just another test against the best players in the world in one of the biggest events, if not the biggest event, in world golf. So looking forward to it.
“There's no really good reason why I couldn't do it. It really doesn't matter what's happened in the past. The only thing they do is build your confidence and give you examples of what you can do, but at the end of the day, come Thursday, it's The Open Championship, and I've got to go out there and hit the golf shots and hole the putts.
“But the good thing about having results like the US Open is that it is proof to yourself, and it's examples that you can end up there, and you have the game to eventually compete. And hopefully, win majors. That's what it's all about.”