Tommy Fleetwood insists he is far more at ease with being viewed as one of the favourites to win this week’s Open championship at Carnoustie.
Twelve months ago, the Southport golfer was heavily tipped to become the first Englishman to win the Claret Jug since Nick Faldo in 1992.
Victory in the French Open and a run of five top-10 finishes in his previous six events before Birkdale enhanced his Claret Jug credentials but Fleetwood’s hopes evaporated with a six-over 76 on the opening day.
He followed up that disappointing start with a gritty 69 to make the cut and eventually finish tied 27th but the world number 10 feels far better prepared to deal with the weight of expectation at Carnoustie this week.
He said: “I didn’t get off to the start I wanted but last year was a very special experience.
“It is not very often you get to play an Open where you grew up. I had gone into the event in form and I happened to be the face of the Open in my hometown.
“I was very lucky to experience that.
“Expectation is a funny thing. I hadn’t made the cut in an Open before and I was one of the favourites to win. That was a strange combination.
“Maybe you are not quite ready to win one, or maybe you are, but you don’t quite know how it is going to go.
“But it was a very cool experience. I teed off early on the Saturday with Justin Rose and it was the biggest crowd you will ever see. That was something I won’t forget.”
A runner-up finish at this year’s US Open proved the 27-year-old can mix it with the world’s best in one of golf’s big four events.
Fleetwood has also shown he can handle the complexities of Carnoustie. He set a course record of 63 during last year’s Dunhill Links at the venue widely regarded as the toughest on the Open rotation.
The bookmakers rate Fleetwood as the sixth most likely winner this week – behind favourite Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm.
Fleetwood said: “There’s no really good reason why I couldn’t do it.
“It really doesn’t matter what’s happened in the past.
“They help build confidence and give examples of what you can do but, come Thursday, it is the Open championship and I have to go out there and hit the golf shots and hole the putts.
“A result like the US Open is proof you have the game to eventually compete and hopefully win majors. That’s what it is all about.
“I was only one shot shy at the US Open. That is a quarter of a shot a round, which is not really much at the end of the day.”
While Fleetwood is taking belief from his display at Shinnecock Hills, the Englishman says his course record is barely relevant, given the way Carnoustie is set up for the pro-am format of the Dunhill Links.
He added: “It is a completely different course. I played it on Sunday and I had never played it this firm or fast.
“Shots you have hit in the past have literally no relevance.
“It was definitely apparent that the difficulties this week are probably going to be putting it in play and hitting fairways.
“It doesn’t do any harm to have played it for a few years but this is a completely different challenge to what we normally face.”
Fleetwood tees off at 12.31pm in Thursday’s first round alongside Henrik Stenson and Jimmy Walker.
Inverness golfer Russell Knox will play alongside 14-time major winner Tiger Woods and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama at 3.21pm.
Stonehaven amateur Sam Locke gets under way at 11.36am. His playing partners are Brandt Snedeker and Cameron Davis.
The 1985 champion Sandy Lyle, playing what is expected to be his final Open appearance, will take the opening shot of the major at 6.35am.