The 26-year-old carded a round of 76, leaving him in danger of missing the cut in his eagerly-awaited homecoming
The in-form English ace, who was born a few hundred yards from Birkdale, fluffed his lines, while playing partner Brooks Koepka showed how it was done by grabbing a share of the lead with a dazzling 65.
Tommy Fleetwood looks distraught as he has to take a drop ball on the ninth at Royal Birkdale
The 26-year-old failed to impress in his eagerly-awaited homecoming as he carded a six-over par 76
Fleetwood was one of the men who pushed Koepka all the way when the American won the US Open last month.
The 26-year-old finished fourth and went on to win the French Open to raise hopes of a ‘home’ win. But he did not manage a single birdie, while a double bogey at the ninth and four other dropped shots had the crowd groaning.
He has insisted however that his flop was not down to nerves. He said: “I was quite happy standing on the first tee. I looked around, felt fine. I felt calm as anything.
“The swing actually felt good. It just didn’t look that way from the TV probably. But I enjoyed playing in front of such huge crowds. It was great. I loved it. They’re absolutely brilliant.
“They did their part, I just couldn’t quite do mine. It’s absolutely fantastic playing in front of that many people, people that are supporting you. It’s brilliant. It’s a great experience. I loved it.
“I’ve come back from bad rounds before. I might not be very happy now, but come tomorrow you’ve got to go one step at a time and see what we can do. I just have to try my best to make up some ground.
The English ace impressed in the US Open this year as he pushed eventual winner Brooks Koepka all the way
Tommy Fleetwood is in danger of missing the cut as he was dogged by a nightmare round in The Open
“Okay, it’s a bad start – no-one likes shooting six over at the Open. But people have shot five under today, and people will probably shoot five under in the second round. I have to make sure I’m one of them.”
Fleetwood, 26, said too much had been made of his ‘course knowledge’, because he is not all that familiar with Birkdale.
He added: “I think I played here about eight times since I was 17. But I prepared great for the event – I came out a couple of times last week, and I couldn’t have felt any better.
“But you’ve still got to hit the shots and still got to get the good breaks. I had a couple of bad breaks, like the complete flier on nine which led to the double.
Golf star Kevin Na amazingly calls his hole in one while ball is still in the air during practice for The Open
“But all in all it feels like the toughest course in the world at times like this. When you’re not playing your best playing Majors; you’re going to get punished.”
Fleetwood was put to shame by veteran campaigner Richard Bland, the ultimate journeyman after playing 415 European Tour events without a win.
Bland, 44, is playing in only his second Open – the previous one was also at Birkdale, back in 1998, when the man from Burton-on-Trent missed the cut on eight over par.
He should be around for the weekend this time after a brilliant finish saw him birdie each of the last three holes. That earned him a three under par 67, and left him just two shots off the lead.
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