GUYANCOURT, France (AP) — On a course that had always got the better of him in recent years, in-form English golfer Tommy Fleetwood hit a faultless 5-under 66 to win the French Open by one shot ahead of Peter Uihlein of the United States on Sunday.
Fleetwood had five birdies and no bogeys to finish at 12 under while Uihlein just failed to force a playoff after making a late charge.
“I can’t believe how close he got,” Fleetwood said. “On 14 I tapped in and I was four clear, and finishing with four pars round here I didn’t think I’d be scratching the win by a shot.”
The 26-year-old Fleetwood has been in good form recently, finishing fourth at the U.S. Open last month. This was his third European Tour win and second of the year, after clinching the prestigious Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in January ahead of Dustin Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal.
“I played great today, felt comfy again and it’s always great to test your game and test what you work on every day under the ultimate pressure.
“My fiancee is my manager, my caddie’s one of my best mates in the world,” Fleetwood said. “I have really strong relationships … when you enjoy doing your job, that’s a massive positive.”
The victory moved Fleetwood to the top of the Race to Dubai rankings.
Fleetwood failed to make the cut before in four previous appearances at the Golf National course – which is hosting next year’s Ryder Cup. But his performance was arguably not that surprising, given his seven top 10 finishes in 13 events this year.
He became the first Englishman to win here since Graeme Storm in 2007.
Uihlein, the overnight co-leader, was seeking his second career win and posted a 3-under 68.
The American made a rough start, with bogeys on holes 4 and 5. But he then recovered superbly, sinking four birdies from Nos. 11 to 17 to give himself a chance of catching Fleetwood. Ultimately, Uihlein fell short, managing only par on the 18th.
“The only thing I probably would try and redo is maybe be a little bit more aggressive on 15, 16. It was just a bad tee shot on 18, so I didn’t give myself much of a chance,” Uihlein said . “I just wanted to try and at least make him earn it. All I was trying to do was just put a little pressure on him. I didn’t want him to feel like he could bogey a couple of holes and still be OK.”
Still, Uihlein did manage to qualify for the British Open, starting July 20 at Royal Birkdale, along with Frenchman Mike Lorenzo-Vera and Sweden’s Alexander Bjork.
“It was a good week,” Uihlein said. “It’s a good event to finish runner-up and it gets me into The Open and it moves me up the Race to Dubai rankings a little bit.”
Royal Birkdale is close to the Merseyside region of northwest England, which is where Fleetwood grew up as a passionate supporter of Liverpool-based soccer club Everton.
Playing there will feel very much like a homecoming for Fleetwood.
“It’s going to be a massive week for me. I’m going to be playing in front of crowds that I never have before and people that you have grown up with,” Fleetwood said. “It’s going to be an amazing experience from start to finish.”
Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark had eight birdies in a 6-under 65, while Lorenzo-Vera shot 66 as both charged up the leaderboard to finish in a tie for third with Bjork (71) at 8 under.
Bjork, the overnight co-leader with Uihlein, could only manage par on the day, with three bogeys canceling out his three birdies.
Thomas Pieters of Belgium and Englishman Andy Sullivan – one shot back from the co-leaders overnight along with Fleetwood – had a bad day with 3-over 74s.
Pieters had three double bogeys, and Sullivan one double bogey and four bogeys. The pair drifted down to 13th at 4-under, alongside Irishman Paul Dunne, who made an inspired 65 to climb up 31 places from overnight.