AS the swimmer Michael Jamieson could no doubt testify, being the poster boy for a sporting event in your hometown is no guarantee of success. Quite the opposite at times.

Tommy Fleetwood, though, seems entirely at ease with that accompanying sense of expectation ahead of the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, a course he would often sneak on to for a few illicit swipes of the ball as a young lad growing up in neighbouring Southport.

There is a pressure on Fleetwood to success this week for a variety of reasons. Firstly, he is the local hero, his face adorning the banners fluttering in the streets surrounding the course. Secondly, a quarter of century has now passed since Nick Faldo became the last of his countrymen to lift the Claret Jug and England expects once more.

Loading article content

Read more: Nick Rodger: Not quite Royal & Ancient but Open still an auld yin’s game

And, thirdly, the 26 year-old is in good form as victories this year at the French Open and in Abu Dhabi, and a fourth-place finish at the US Open all testify.

That could all add up to a burden that would weigh heavily on the shoulders of some but Fleetwood could not have appeared more laidback had he been lounging in a hammock and sipping on a Pina Colada. Naturally he wants to become Open champion– something he has dreamt of “since I was five years old” – but that ambition has been tempered by a philosophical outlook shaped by meditation, the advice of a psychologist and an acknowledgement that success does not always equate to happiness.

“Nothing really scares me,” he admitted, as candid as he is carefree. “I think the main part of it for me is how happy I am off the course. My life is fantastic.

“That plays a massive part in how you feel and how you deal with things. And I do have a very good psychologist that I work with. These days my time management is a lot better. I meditate a lot. I know myself a lot better, really.

Read more: Nick Rodger: Not quite Royal & Ancient but Open still an auld yin’s game

“I don’t particularly like talking about it much but, after a year of struggling, when you start playing better you have a much better perspective on the game. And this year, as good as it’s been, I felt comfortable and I felt like I was taking it in my stride.

“What happens on the course matters because it’s your job and your life, and all my dream and ambitions centre on golf. But, whatever happens, I’m going to go home and everything is going to be as good as it’s ever been. So what more do you really want?

“I think you just have to take this game in your stride, really. And I’ll continue to look at it that way.”

If last year’s Open cult hero at Royal Troon was Andrew “Beef” Johnston, then Fleetwood seems set to become this year’s man to follow around Birkdale. His unkempt curly long hair and pirate-esque wispy goatee mean he automatically stands out from the crowd, and this Everton diehard can expect raucous support from all of Lancashire – maybe Liverpool fans aside – when he takes to the course just after 10am on Thursday alongside US Open champion Brooks Koepka and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama.

While some would prefer to plod along diligently away from the spotlight, Fleetwood is happy to embrace all the adulation that comes his way.

Read more: Nick Rodger: Not quite Royal & Ancient but Open still an auld yin’s game

“I think this week is going to be an experience for me that I’ll never forget,” he said. “It’s very rare that you get a tournament this close to home. I’ll have the most support I’ve ever had in my life, from people I’ve grown up with, friends, family, you name it. My face is on a lot of lampposts at the moment.

“But I don’t feel extra pressure from it. It will be great to have so many people out there rooting for you. It doesn’t happen all the time that you have that many people, and they all want you to do well. So I think it will be nice, and I’m sure, it will make me smile when I get there.

“I live an hour away now, which is fine, not bad at all. If anything comes up or an early tee time, I’ve got mum and dad around the corner. I’m sure my mum would be happy to have me around again. I got recognised at the market the other day, but nothing else that spectacular.

“There’s nobody fainting in the street as I walk past. So I’m still waiting for those days to come. I’d much rather be in this position where people might be talking about me as a contender than turning up and sort of being a no show. It’s nice to be spoke of in that light, to be honest.

“I find it very flattering and it doesn’t affect me in any way, apart from it’s very nice and makes me smile, really. I’ve thought about winning The Open since I was five years old, so I think thinking about it another few days isn’t going to make any difference to me.”

Read more: Nick Rodger: Not quite Royal & Ancient but Open still an auld yin’s game

Winning it at a course he played as a boy with his dad and his friends would be an almost too-perfect storyline. Anyone keen to follow, literally, in his footsteps, however, will likely be disappointed.

“You can’t sneak on the places that we used to sneak on anymore,” he admitted. “The fifth hole was the place that used to be a lot more open but it’s got fences and bushes there now so that’s gone. You can’t even got on to watch The Open anymore.

“You can try jump on but I wouldn’t recommend it. I mean, we were very clever about it. Or my dad was, not me. It’s a lot tougher these days. It was a course I would have crept on now and again. It’s where The Open is and now I’m playing. It’s very cool.”