Dubai, Jan 21: Tommy Fleetwood will this week make his ninth start at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, an event he has never missed since he first played it in 2012. But with just two Top-10 finishes – Tied-sixth in 2018 and T-10 in 2013 – it has not been a spectacular record as in Abu Dhabi, where he won in 2017 and 2018 and was runner-up last week.
Yet, Fleetwood loves starting the season early in this part of the world.
He admits he feels at home when he comes out and that there are so many events in this region.
Starting with Abu Dhabi and Dubai and he also relishes finishing thee European Tour season at DP World Tour Championship, where he was second in November 2019.
As usual, Fleetwood was candid and free with the media on the eve of thee 2020 Omega Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club.
On the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship a week earlier?
Yeah, last week was good. There’s a bit of unknown when you come back out. Last week, I struggled (on) Thursday but in a good sense that I saw my tendencies come out. I saw I struggled a little bit, practiced and moved on to the next day and got better throughout the week and by the end of the week, after struggling to actually build a lot of confidence, I felt really good.
You know, first week out, it’s easy to say like when I’ve done well for a few years, but it’s more the weeks where it can build a lot of momentum, but it’s not something that you put too much pressure on or look at too much. It’s just a week to build on, and it just happens to be a very big week of the year now with it being a Rolex Series Event and lucky enough to play well the last few years.
On doing well in this part of the world (Middle East)?
I think most players feel very at home when they come out here. There are so many events now in the Middle East or the UAE, so for me, you always start the year out here and hopefully you end the year here. It’s not a given but generally we always end the year in Dubai.
You get used to the golf courses. That’s one side. But I just think as I’ve been playing better, I think there is certain — there are certain players or there’s certain like styles of golf that fit and people do well around. I’ve not always done well in the Middle East. I feel like I’ve grown to improve, and actually I feel comfortable and it is such a great place to play golf.
On whether it is important for momentum to have a good start in the desert?
It definitely helps. I don’t want to put too much pressure on it because the year goes quick, but it is a long year in general. You know, so when you play good or bad, I think it’s important to keep the same attitude, so just because you’ve done well last week, doesn’t mean you come into this week feeling great, everything’s fine. You want to prepare and play this week like you missed the cut last week almost and make sure you’re pushing. There’s things everybody wants to improve. There are things that people have worked on over the winter that really you’re only going to find out how it goes when you get under pressure.
So you know, you don’t want to put too much pressure on it but clearly people like Shane, myself, Sergio, Danny, they have won majors after winning early on, and in particular, last year Shane and myself, and 2017, I ended up winning The Race to Dubai. It clearly makes a very nice difference if you do well.
On probably growing up reading about Lee Westwood, winning around the world. Would he be an inspiration to people like him?
Yeah, I think Lee — I think longevity, it’s going to be like the standard word used for him now. I think the thing is, you know, just because he’s — what is he, 47, 46? His swing hasn’t changed since he’s about 20 and it’s been working fine for the last three decades, so it might as well work in this one.
I think he’s in a really good place himself at the moment, and it’s a different inspiration now. Because you watch him play as a kid, and now you know, as well as he is a competitor, I class him as a friend and somebody that we can speak to and great to hang around with and learn off.
I think we’re all lucky to have Lee out on the Tour and absolutely if you can aspire to somebody, Lee is a fantastic person, looking at his career and the way he’s played and how good he’s been for a long time. It’s very, very impressive. I think he’s a great person to have around.
On having Lee Westwood for the Ryder Cup?
I loved having him around. He was the vice (captain) that was around me for two or three rounds, and he had a very calming influence. I guess when you’ve been there for ten, you’re pretty used to it and he knows what he’s doing. There’s no reason why he wouldn’t be on The Ryder Cup Team. I think we’d all love to be there. As a player, I think he’s got a lot to give.
Of course people, it’s going to be something people talk about now that he’s won the first event of the year, and I actually thought he would be on The Ryder Cup Team about six months ago. I think he’s been playing consistently really, really well for a year and a half, two years, and with a win, I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t be on the team.
On being second at the (2019) DP World Tour Championship, second in Abu Dhabi last week?
It’s better than third. You know what, sometimes — I think one thing that I am learning is that — and the positive thing is, I’m putting myself up there now, and last year, I looked at the year and it was clearly frustrating that I had not won an event when I felt like I played some great golf.
Sometimes people just play better. You know, Jon (Rahm) in DP World played the best golf — he played the best golf throughout the year, really, and deserved to win The Race to Dubai. He played the best golf that week. I came up one shy last week; Lee (Westwood) was the best player on the weekend.
You know, there’s plenty of times that’s going to happen, but I’m not going to crumble at this at the moment. The great thing is that I’m there or thereabouts and if I can keep going that often enough and keep doing the same things, eventually get it will be my turn. I’d like to be the one that wins, but also, I’d rather be the guy that’s second or third or fifth and if I can keep my golf consistently, and if this is the level I’m playing at more often than not, then it’s a very, very good thing.
Whether there is a temptation to add a couple of events as the year goes along when you are doing well?
I guess so — our schedule was done and started before Christmas and we’ll pretty much stick to that. There might be one that comes out or one that gets added it in. It really won’t change much.
I guess I’m getting used to the notion the last two years; trust yourself to play well when you decide you’re going to play and not just bulk up and play. I’ve always been somebody that plays a lot, and I think that as you get better and as more things arise, if you take this year, for example, hopefully there will be a Ryder Cup.
Hopefully there will be an Olympics and hopefully I’ll get all the way through to the end of the FedEx. You know, hopefully I’ll be at DP World in a chance to win in The Race to Dubai.
I think it’s important that you trust yourself and you’re going to do the work and you’re going to play well when the time comes and not just get carried away with just trying to play all the time and hope for a result, if you like.
That’s something I’ve done in the past. Maybe that’s the wrong way of putting it, but it’s just different, and as my career is progressing, hopefully it keeps going in the right direction, and it is about knowing exactly what you’re going to play and not changing it and backing yourself to play in those events.
On what is an ideal stretch of playing events?
Honestly, I don’t really have one. I think more than four is getting a bit carried away, and I’m not somebody that likes to play one week on and then two or three weeks off. I definitely like at least two, but no more than four and then take it from there.
Like you say, so easy if you play well for three weeks in a row, so easy to carry on because you know you’re playing well. But yeah, it’s going to run out eventually, so you need to rest up.