Tommy Fleetwood's Close Shave Saves Face at Players Championship

The Englishman, sans beard, shoots 6-under 66 at TPC Sawgrass to share the lead in a rain-interrupted first round

Tommy Fleetwood was always the gritty little Englishman to American golf fans. If you’ve got a long memory, he was the 21st-century English version of Corey Pavin, a diminutive figure who once out-dueled Greg Norman to win a U.S. Open

Fleetwood was like Pavin, a good iron player, good putter, great chipper, minimized mistakes. He became a major player for a while — fourth at Erin Hills in the 2017 U.S. Open; second at Shinnecock Hills the next year when Brooks Koepka withstood Fleetwood’s closing charge; fourth at the ’19 British Open at Royal Portrush, though it was a distant six shots behind winner Shane Lowry

Then came the last two years and … poof! Fleetwood, from Merseyside, England, disappeared as a contender in major championships

The man who had ranked among the top 10 players in the world slid back into the 30s and 40s and, as of this week, No. 49 in the Official World Golf Ranking, narrowly getting into the Players field via the top 50

On the World Golf Hair Rankings, which are unofficial, Fleetwood still is the unanimous No. 1 choice. He’s got rock star hair, well out from under his cap. He does not have rock star sideburns and beard, however. His downturn — let’s not call it a slump but you could if you were the mean type — led him to try to change his luck

“I was in a really bad mood,” the 31-year-old Fleetwood said early Thursday evening after he finished his opening round at the Players Championship. “It was (either) break some golf clubs or shave the beard. So, I went for the beard

You can believe in hair care as the path to better golf or not. Ben Hogan didn’t mention that in his famous instruction book

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