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Donald says Fleetwood 'absolutely could be a future captain' at Ryder Cup

Tommy Fleetwood Tommy Fleetwood - The Canadian Press

GUIDONIA MONTECELIO, Italy (AP) — Tommy Fleetwood was on the 12th green during his first official practice round of Ryder Cup week when something beyond the course caught his attention.

The long-haired Englishman’s heroics from 2018 in France were being shown on a jumbo screen nearby and Fleetwood stopped to watch himself as the commentator bellowed, “Tommy, you legend!” following one of his holed putts.

“It was in my face,” Fleetwood explained Tuesday. “Nicer than watching bad memories or times when you’ve chopped it around."

There certainly wasn't much chopping in 2018, as Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari formed an unbeatable “Moliwood” team that won all four of its matches.

“Paris owns a special place in a lot of our hearts and it’s the last Ryder Cup that we won," Fleetwood said. "And it’s been five years, so it’s actually been quite a long time.

“Ryder Cup memories in general and moments on the golf course that everyone has had, they don’t take much to come back to the front of your mind. It’s just very cool being able to watch those.”

With Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood no longer part of the team, Fleetwood’s leadership and experience are a vital part of this Europe squad at the Marco Simone club outside Rome.

So much so that Luke Donald said Fleetwood “absolutely could be a future captain.”

Actually, Fleetwood already has experience as a captain, having guided the Britain and Ireland team at the Hero Cup this year.

“I was impressed with the way he handled the situation at the Hero Cup,” said Donald, the current Europe captain. “Tommy has a great way about him. He’s very relaxed. He has a smile on his face. He loves being in a team room. He loves the atmosphere. I think his game elevates having that support group around him.”

With that in mind, Fleetwood could be a candidate to hit Europe’s opening tee shot when the competition begins Friday. An accurate driver and good with long irons, Fleetwood’s game should be a perfect fit for Marco Simone’s narrow fairways.

“He’s very much a team player and one of the best ball-strikers in the world as well,” Donald said. “I expect him to have a great week.”

While Molinari again isn't playing — having also missed out on qualifying for the squad for Europe's record loss at Whistling Straits two years ago — the Italian is back in the mix at a home Ryder Cup as a vice captain.

So it's the perfect opportunity to revive the “bromance” between Molinari and Fleetwood, with the pair having memorably shared a bed with the Ryder Cup trophy the morning after the 2018 victory.

“I’m still so, so close to Fran and Valentina and the family,” Fleetwood said, referring to Molinari's wife. “Chatting to him during the day is very, very cool for me. ... I’ve been very close to him in my Ryder Cup journey. He’s played a huge part in that so far.”

In 2021, Fleetwood had a winless pairing with Viktor Hovland, so he would seem to be in line for a new partner.

“You could see when he was paired with Francesco, somebody he was very comfortable with, he was very successful,” Donald said.

Ranked No. 13, Fleetwood has still never won a major. But he’s been rounding into form since July, with five top 10s in his six starts going into the Ryder Cup.

“He’s a team player all in all,” Donald said. “He lives for those moments in those team spaces.”

Time to create more highlight reels.


AP Sports Writer Steve Douglas contributed to this report.


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