Tommy Fleetwood is embracing Olympic life even though it meant a return to the classroom before leaving for the Tokyo Games.
The 30-year-old Englishman will represent Team GB along with Paul Casey in the men’s golf event, which starts at the Kasumigaseki Country Club at 23:30 BST on Wednesday. Both are seeking to emulate Justin Rose’s gold medal performance in Rio five years ago.
Mel Reid, meanwhile, missed last week’s major, the Evian Championship, to be able to compete alongside team-mate Jodi Ewart-Shadoff in the women’s event in Tokyo which starts on 4 August.
Before their trips to Japan, the British players were required to undergo a special education programme organised by UK anti-doping (Ukad) on the potential pitfalls of entering the multi-sport arena.
“We are in our own bubble of golf all the time,” Fleetwood told BBC Sport immediately after completing the course. “This is something a little bit different and with a few extra rules.
“I think it does you a lot of good to just know that there are other scenarios that can happen.
“Golf is huge to us,” added the current world number 34. “You turn up to 30 events a year pretty confident that you know everything that’s going on.”
Fleetwood describes this week’s competition as “something different that is on a massively global scale, with other rules”.
This meant a Zoom tutorial with Ukad officials explaining the latest doping policies and how samples for testing will kept for 10 years to ensure ever-improving technology can expose drugs cheats.
British competitors are examined on their knowledge in a series of multiple choice questions. “I wasn’t that great on some of the answers, I’ve got to be honest,” Fleetwood admitted.
“I’ll be better now, I’m well educated now. But, yes, it is different and it’s all part of it, something new. You have to go through an education system, questionnaires and stuff, but it is all part of the Olympic experience.”
Fleetwood and Casey are part of a 60-man field that has lost world number one Jon Rahm and the man the Spaniard succeeded as US Open champion last June, Bryson DeChambeau, after both failed Covid tests prior to leaving for Tokyo.
DeChambeau has been replaced by 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed while Rahm’s place in the Spanish team goes to Jorge Campillo.
Thankfully, Fleetwood and Casey have arrived in Japan without any issues relating to the pandemic. “I’m excited, just bubbling to get going with the Olympic experience,” Fleetwood said.
“There’s tonnes of different sports and a bunch of different athletes. Even though we all do something different, I’m guessing we all have a lot of things in common.
“There’s no trepidation at all. I’m just really, really excited to get going and experience it and compete.”
And he fully understands the need for a strict doping regime, even for a sport which, in the past, was perceived to be one where competitors could gain little benefit from performance enhancing substances.
“I think throughout sport it’s so, so important that it is a fair playing field,” Fleetwood said. “Golf is slightly changing all the time into a more and more athletic sport.
“But for a long time it has been a very intricately skilled sport and substances that help you or boost you, have they in the history ever made a difference to you holing a six-foot putt or playing golf?
“Not really, compared to a sprinter or a cyclist, say.
“But I think golf has always been labelled with a lot of integrity, so for my experience it has never been an issue.”
Drug testing was first brought into the game in 2008, a time when the sport was campaigning for readmission to the Olympics having last been played at the 1904 Games.
Its return at Rio in 2016 was considered a huge success when Rose pipped reigning Open champion Henrik Stenson for men’s gold and Inbee Park won the women’s event for South Korea.
It attracted large crowds and healthy global television audiences, many of whom were able to watch the game for the first time. Fleetwood is delighted to be part of a movement that should help continue to popularise his sport.
He knows it will not just be golf die-hards who will follow his fortunes this week. “You watch sports that you don’t necessarily know that much about, but you’re screaming because you’re supporting Great Britain,” he said.
“And I really hope that I can give people something to watch and to cheer on.”
Normally he plays for millions of pounds at majors and regular PGA and European Tour events. This week there is not a penny of prize money.
It is all about the glory of gold and Fleetwood agrees it will be one of the most important tournaments of his career. “Yes, 100%,” he said.
“Golf has been given a boost since Covid. People have wanted to take up the game.
“I am a massive advocate of trying to grow the game, trying to get kids into the game, trying to get teenagers, anybody, to play the game of golf.
“It has a lot of benefits, it’s given me so much and I love the game on all levels.
“Golf being part of the Olympics is great for the spirit, it’s great that I can be one of those people that can compete in it and can showcase it to a much wider global audience than a regular golf tournament.”