This interview first appeared in the June 2018 issue of GOLF, previewing the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills. Fleetwood went on to finish second at Shinnecock, buoyed by a final-round 63.
You have four career wins on the European tour and now, at age 27, you've made the transition to the PGA Tour. What's it been like for you, getting to know new golf courses, new tournaments?
Very enjoyable, actually. It's a slightly different style of golf. The greens tend to be a bit firmer and a little bit quicker, with more slope. And a lot of new faces, though they're not really new. I've played in good groups, with some great guys. It's a friendly tour. And it's been nice to play some pretty good golf as well.
A year and a half ago you were ranked 188th in the world. Here we are, spring of 2018, and you're now ranked 12th. How tough was it when you were 188 and really searching for your game?
Well, it's not great. The frustrating part is knowing that you've done it before, knowing that you can play, but then your game starts going down the wrong path and you lose confidence. It's so easy to just start slipping away.
In your time on the Tour, have you leaned on any European players for advice?
Generally, I'm okay asking questions. Most of the guys have been really good. People like Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Rory McIlroy, Paul Casey, Graeme McDowell. They're very, very supportive.
What's the biggest difference about playing in the States?
It's a busier scene. There are a lot of cars. And there's always a Starbucks. You always end up gettin' a Starbucks on your way to somewhere.
Anything you miss from either England or Europe?
I miss my wife's cooking. I hope she hears that, actually. [Laughs] She's like, "If you're home for a week, you get your seven favorite meals."
Any funny interactions with American sports fans since you've been here?
One guy at the Honda told me to finish with ten shots. "Three, three, two," he said. I said, "That's eight!" [Laughs] We did find that one to be funny. But it's been great. The American fans have taken to me, so I'm very grateful for that.
Well, with the long hair, you've got a movie-star look.
Yeah, I'm the lowest grossing movie star of all time! I've had long hair for a while now. I shaved my head once, and learned that I've got, like, a cone head. So I'm never gonna do that again. The beard has just come on recently, "cause my wife likes me looking older. So if I shave the beard it won't go over very well.
You've been on warp-speed for the past few months. You welcomed the birth of your son, Franklin, you got married, then transitioned full-time to the PGA Tour. How crazy has it been?
Pretty crazy, but you kind of take it all in stride. You never really get a chance to sit back and look at where you are or what you've done. If you stop working, you're gonna get overtaken quickly. You can't really take your foot off the gas — until you decide to pack it in.
At times, do you almost have to force yourself to enjoy it?
I look at my boy every day and think how amazing that is. I'm in a very, very happy period of my life. It's definitely helped that I've been playing well. But if I do have a bad day [on the course], it doesn't affect my life. It used to. But now, it's not the be-all and end-all if the golf doesn't go well.
2018 is a Ryder Cup year. After the 2016 competition at Hazeltine, there was a lot of talk that an American run of dominance is just beginning. You weren't on the European team that lost in '16. Jon Rahm wasn't on that team. How big of a boost do you think guys like you and Rahm could bring to the European team this fall?
I think we're the spine of that team! [Laughs] No. It would be amazing to get on the team. I always like to take myself out of the equation and just talk about it that way. I know people are talking about the American team — that it's as strong as American golf's ever been, but I actually think Europe is bordering on that, too. So I would love to have a chance to be part of that, because I feel like this Ryder Cup could be one of the best ever.
Given recent showings by you, Rory, Rahm, Paul Casey, have you all basically said, "Hold up a second, the Europeans will not be steamrolled"?
Well, yeah. We don't want to give up that easily. We have an immensely strong bunch of players at the moment. So do the Americans. It's gonna be great, no matter what happens.