Young Fleetwood blazes a trail in the sunshine


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The Independent Online

Yet another day in the blazing Scottish September sun, yet another boy-wonder lighting up England's golfing future. Tommy Fleetwood underlined the thrilling strength of the burgeoning Brit pack with a 63 to take the lead at the halfway point of the Dunhill Links.

The 20-year-old from Southport showed his love for the seaside with a blemish-free nine-under magnificence. And so this young pro looked up at the leaderboard and saw the names beneath him. Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Luke Donald. A few words summed it up for him. "Cool," he said. "Really cool."

When pressed for more, Fleetwood spelt out the nature of his awe. "I've watched these guys on TV for years, analysing everything they do," he said. "Obviously my name is in pretty good company right now."

Fleetwood won the English amateur, appeared at the 2009 Walker Cup and, after turning pro last year, made sure of his European Tour card for next year when winning the £55,000 first prize on the Challenge Tour's Kazakhstan Open last month. Next came this trip to golfing wonderland. "If I can shoot a decent score tomorrow then I could play with somebody like Kaymer or Westwood," he said, after coming within one of Westwood's course record. "That would be really, really cool."

Fleetwood is experienced enough to know the easier-said-than-doneness of that wish. Today, he plays Carnoustie and the forecast is far rougher. "This was a great day to play Carnoustie," said McIlroy (right), after a 67 hauled him to eight-under. "You will never see it easier than this. Tomorrow it could be more difficult."

The heavyweights, meanwhile, go on to St Andrews and will fancy their chances of bringing the Old Course to her knees before Sunday's finale at the same course. Michael Hoey, the joint-leader from Ireland, shot a 66 at the Home of Golf on Thursday and another 66 here yesterday. In conditions that were on the submissive side of benign, 27 golfers are within five shots of the lead. And it is not merely Fleetwood disproving that youth is wasted on the young.

At 22, McIlroy feels positively medieval on this leaderboard. "I was talking to G-Mac [ McDowell] about it out here today," he said. "The guys coming out now, me included, are so much more ready to make that transition."

Tom Lewis, the better-known English 20-year-old, is on seven-under, after a 69, while also at Carnoustie James Byrne, Lewis's Walker Cup team-mate, is six-under.