Golf: England's Fleetwood returns to golf after four months off

Fleetwood at Sandiway Golf Club in Northwich, Britain, on May 13, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Britain's Tommy Fleetwood, a major runner-up in 2018 and 2019, makes his return to golf after a four-month coronavirus pandemic layoff on Thursday (July 23) at the US PGA 3M Open.

The 29-year-old Englishman, second to Ireland's Shane Lowry by six strokes in the 2019 British Open at Portrush, tees off Thursday morning at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, Minnesota.

Fleetwood, who will play alongside fourth-ranked American Dustin Johnson and rising US star Tony Finau in the first two rounds, also finished second at the 2018 US Open, one stroke behind Brooks Koepka at Shinnecock Hills.

This will be the first start since March for Fleetwood, a five-time European Tour winner who grabbed his first 54-hole lead on the US PGA Tour at the Honda Classic four months ago.

Needing a birdie at the 72nd hole to force a playoff with South Kore's Im Sung-jae, Fleetwood went for the green in two at the par-5 hole and found the water, closing with a bogey to finish third.

Since then, he has spent the tour hiatus at home in England with wife Clare and his 2-year-old son Frankie.

"It has been beautiful family time," Fleetwood said. "It would have been nice if sort of the time we had would have come under different circumstances in the world at the moment, but for us, the time we had together has been something that probably we'll never get again."

Fleetwood left his family behind when he flew to New York two weeks ago and spent his mandatory 14-day quarantine in the Hamptons on eastern Long Island, returning to Shinnecock among other golf tuneup stops.

He built a schedule for a nine-week run of US events that included next month's PGA Championship, the US Open in September and the now-postponed Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits.

Fleetwood's new plan includes making a deep run in the US PGA playoffs and finish with the US Open at Winged Foot on September 17-20.

"Really happy to be here," Fleetwood said.

"Nice to see so many familiar faces. That's kind of one of the great things about the tour is that no matter how long you've kind of been away, you just kind of pick up where you left off and everybody just kind of says 'Hey' like they saw you yesterday.

"It's nice getting out and seeing a tour setup again and preparing for that... Eventually it was always going to be my turn to come out."

With golf courses shut down for months at home and a late return to US events, Fleetwood hopes to play his way back into form quickly.

"I'm going to work hard and play hard and see how well we can do," he said.

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