Fleetwood on Olympics, Ryder Cup, R2D, FedEx Cup and Shane Lowry

A past champion at Abu Dhabi, Tommy Fleetwood has a special place for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. He admitted he loved the event though he struggled initially and speaks on the Olympic Games, Ryder Cup, the Race to Dubai and his close friend, Shane Lowry. Fleetwood plays his first round alongside World No. 1 Brooks Koepka and Lowry at 7.40 am local time. Pic – European Tour

Excerpts from his media interview at Abu Dhabi Golf Championship:

On what Abu Dhabi Golf Championship means to him:

Yeah, (it) means a lot. I think the first few years I came here, I actually struggled. I always felt like I played pretty well, but I think I missed the cut for the first four years I played it.

But I think as an event, you know, when so many people are starting the year out, it is pretty much the best way to start the year. I’ve always enjoyed it. I’ve always think it throws you in at the deep end, a really tough test. If you’ve been home for a few months and you come out here, hotel is amazing, you feel great, and I’ve been — you know, any time you win, there’s always a bit of luck involved.

So I’ve been lucky enough to have a couple of really good years here, and I think it’s started, those two years, in particular, the ones that I did win here, sort of catapulted me on for the rest of the year.

On what he did after the last event in 2019?

Not a lot, really. It was great in a way because I finished the year so strong, so it was nice to be able to do nothing and know that you had finished the year with a lot of satisfaction. Let your mind rest, really.

It can go the other way where you know you’re going to have five, six, seven weeks without a tournament, and if I hadn’t finished so well at the end of the season, it might play on your mind and you might overwork perhaps.

I didn’t feel like doing anything until the kids said I don’t play enough golf with them, so eventually I had to get the clubs out and start messing around a bit.

On his goals for 2020?

I think people like to set goals for the year. Of course, there’s targets to do with results. I think everybody always automatically assumes that the obvious ones are to win tournaments or to win majors or to compete in majors, and of course they are there.

There’s other things I’d like to do. Of course I want to get to the Olympics. I think that’s on my radar. The Ryder Cup is in September. There’s clear goals and clear things that I want to be part of and that don’t involve — they don’t necessarily involve, like I’m not just saying, look, I want to win Olympic Gold or I want to win The Ryder Cup. They are obvious but I would really like to be part of them to start with.

And then, you know, just clear signs of improvement. There are certain parts of my game that I want to improve. Certain things about myself that I want to do better and places that I want to go.

On what a good start to the year means and how it helps?

I think momentum. You know, from my two personal experiences, 2017, I had been in a slump for most of 2015 and 2016 and I felt like by the end of 2016, I was playing really well.

2017, I felt very ready to have a really good year. Felt very ready to win a tournament again, and it just so happened again that it was this one, and I think it just proved to myself that I was sort of back where I wanted to be and I think that gave me a lot of confidence.

Fast forward a year, I think I’ve had the best year of my life, and 2018 was just proof that it wasn’t going to like not happen again. I was continuing my good form.

Those were those two years. You’ve had a break, and you always come into this week with a little bit of an unknown. I people have played already like a week before, which is actually a really good idea.

So winning, there’s not really a better way to start the year than winning, so I think that’s a big part of it.

On how practical it was to cut events in a congested year?

I would like to cut a couple of events, but I would like to play as many as possible when it’s the Olympics, Ryder Cup, the FedExCup, get all the way through that and Race to Dubai, get all the way through that. You want to play every event possible in that respect.

I just feel like I’ve had two or three years where I’ve played a lot. I’ve been playing both tours, and I’ve done really well. But I would love more of a chance to have a bit of time off, a bit more time with the family or a bit more time developing my game instead of actually preparing for a tournament.

So that is something that I’m looking to do moving forward, including this year, and I just think the summer period can get very, very busy but I would love it to be that way. You know, Race to Dubai is always going to be something that we strive for. I think playing sort of both sides, PGA and European Tour, you know straightaway that the only way you can win The Race to Dubai is by competing in the biggest events and doing well in those events.

So that’s what I’ve got to do. I’d love to get, you know, the last three years, come into that last event with a chance of winning it all, I think is very special. It’s something that I’ve been very grateful for and I’ve loved every minute of it when it gets to the last event. So fingers crossed, work hard, play well and do it again.

On Shane Lowry?

What’s the thing about Shane? Like, sexually or? (Laughter).
(then he added) Shane’s one of my closest people out on Tour, and I think one thing I’ve always admired about him is how sort of freely he plays, especially when he’s playing well. I love the flow to his swing. I think he’s got one of the best short games in world golf, and I think when he matches that up with hitting it well, he’s obviously very hard to beat.

I think, you know, last year was such a great year for him. I think he was so happy to win again here. I actually remember playing with him in Canada the year before, and you know, we chatted a lot on the way around and he had not been playing anywhere near what he’d like to, and he wasn’t happy with it, but he was working hard. I just think, you know, getting that confidence from this win helped him a lot.

And the way he handled himself in The Open in difficult circumstances, really. He was in front of a home crowd; he had the lead; it was tough conditions. I just thought, as annoying as it was because I was the one that finished second, I thought he handled himself very well and he played great and he did everything on that Sunday in the right way.

I think he knows when he plays well, he’s got a lot of confidence about him and he knows he can compete with anybody. At the end the day, he’s won a World Golf Championships, he’s won a major, and he knows how to do it.

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