Golf

The British Open Paid the Wrong Tommy Fleetwood $154,480 in Prize Money

Imagine having the same name as a well-known person and even being in the same line of work. The opportunities for confusion are endless, which a Florida golf pro by the name of Tommy Fleetwood learned after the 2018 British Open.

Someone confused Fleetwood with the 29-year-old European Tour star of the same name from Southport, England. Hilarity then ensued — unless you’re the guy on the wrong end of a $154,480 bank transaction that went askew.

Tommy Fleetwood was in contention at the 2018 British Open

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Francesco Molinari made history at the 2018 British Open by becoming the first Italian golfer to win one of the four majors, shooting an 8-under-par 276 to beat Justin Rose, Xander Schauffele, and Rory McIlroy by two strokes.

English golfer Tommy Fleetwood was in contention all week, but a final-round 73 dropped him off the leaderboard at Scotland’s Carnoustie Golf Club and into a tie for 12th place with four others. It wasn’t Fleetwood’s best work, but it was still a $154,480 payday.

It was nowhere close to the $1,890,000 that Molinari earned, but it was still good money for a week of work. Unfortunately, the money took the long way to Fleetwood’s bank account.

How do golfers get paid at tournaments?

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Professional golfers are independent contractors. As members of the PGA Tour or the European Tour, they must meet certain obligations like playing in a minimum number of tournaments and faring well enough to keep their exempt status the following season.

However, they also have great latitude in setting their schedules. Unlike Major League Baseball players locked into 162-game schedules that alternate between homestands and road trips, golfers pick the events that suit their needs. Some of the decisions are based on whether the course fits their game or the likelihood of there being a stacked field to compete against.

With that freedom comes responsibility. Golfers have agents and accountants, but they’re making their own travel arrangements, and hiring swing coaches and sports psychologists, etc. At the end of the day, all those people pus the caddie need to be paid. And that can only happen after the player receives his prize money from tournaments.

Paying players by check doesn’t make sense in modern times. No tournament director wants to be scribbling out 70 checks early Sunday evening after the final standings have been confirmed, and many players are already on the way to the airport hours before the final groups finish playing. Mailing the checks out a few days later to addresses all over the country – and sometimes the world – isn’t any more efficient.

Nowadays, the payments are made by wire transfers in the same fashion that most 9-to-5 workers are paid. Each player’s banking information is on file with tour administrators, and golfers have access to their winnings within a day or two of the money being wired.

Tommy Fleetwood’s money went to the wrong guy

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When it came time for the European Tour to distribute money from the 2018 British Open, English golfer Tommy Fleetwood’s $154,480 for finishing in a tie for 12th place landed in the account of a 58-year-old Clermont, Florida, teaching pro named … Thomas Fleetwood.

That Tommy Fleetwood noticed that $154,480 had landed in his checking account, and it was followed soon by an urgent email from the European Tour to please send the money back.

So, how did the glitch happen?

It turns out that Florida’s Thomas Fleetwood played the Lyon Open in France in 1989. He’d also made an unsuccessful run at qualifying for Europe’s seniors tour after turning 50 years old. For whatever the reason, his information remained on file with the European Tour.

Fleetwood, of course, went to a nearby bank branch and made arrangements to return the money.

“I’m poor again,” he said with a laugh.