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Despite the rain, Tommy Fleetwood takes the lead in the Players Championship after waiting FOUR HOURS for a crucial birdie putt

TOMMY FLEETWOOD was ahead in the opening round of the Players Championship after showing nerves of steel on a crucial birdie putt after a four-hour wait.

Fleetwood was in full swing completing a 9-foot hat-trick from birdies when the horn blared to stop play due to an approaching thunderstorm.

Tommy Fleetwood set the early pace at the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass

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Tommy Fleetwood set the early pace at the Players Championship at TPC SawgrassCredit: AP
He had to wait four hours after the horn sounded for a rain delay

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He had to wait four hours after the horn sounded for a rain delayCredit: AP

He had plenty of time to think about that putt while the delay dragged on.

But when the players finally got the green light to return to the pitch, the Southport star rolled in nonchalantly – and completed a brilliant performance six under par 66 to set the early pace in sawgrass.

Fleetwood could use a confidence boost as he tries to rediscover the form that made him one of the heroes of the 2019 European Ryder Cup triumph.

He’s had a rough time since following up his epic exploits in European colors as one half of the all-conquering Moliwood combination – alongside close friend Francesco Molinari – by winning the Nedbank Challenge title in South Africa a few months later.

This win put him in the top ten in the world rankings. But things have only gone downhill since then and he now sits in 49th place.

And Fleetwood revealed his struggles made him so angry – he decided to shave off his trademark beard!

He explained: “I was in a really bad mood and it was either breaking a couple of clubs or shaving the beard. And I went for the whiskers.

“The beard has always been a topic of conversation. My favorite commentary definitely came in Abu Dhabi earlier this year. I played with Viktor Hovland – and obviously we’re very close – and Collin Morikawa.

“They both looked at me and said we had to google your age – we thought you were 37 or 38. That’s a pretty harsh comment, to be fair.

“So when I shaved it off, like I said, it took about 15 years. Everyone noticed that I look much younger without a beard. That’s positive.

“But my wife Clare definitely prefers me with a beard, so I will definitely grow it again.

“As long as I can keep my temper and smile, I don’t have to shave again.”

Bad weather devastated the first day of the tournament in Florida

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Bad weather devastated the first day of the tournament in FloridaCredit: Alamy

Hovland and playing partners Jon Rahm and Patrick Cantlay would not have complained about the timing of the long delay. They had all just found the green on the infamous “island” 17 when play stopped.

If the horn had blown a few minutes earlier they would have returned to face that tee shot as their first taste of action in over four hours – and even three members of the world top 5 would not have enjoyed the prospect!

At least they finished their rounds. Rory McIlroy and the rest of the Afternoon Wave barely got going before dark.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/17913940/tommy-fleetwood-players-championship-sawgrass-pga-tour/ Despite the rain, Tommy Fleetwood takes the lead in the Players Championship after waiting FOUR HOURS for a crucial birdie putt

Ashley

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