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January 18, 2017

Matthew Fitzpatrick

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

STEVE TODD: Pleased to be joined by Matt Fitzpatrick.

Warm welcome to Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. You obviously had a wonderful end to the 2016 season not too far from here. How excited are you to be getting your 2017 season underway here this week?

MATT FITZPATRICK: Yeah, absolutely. It's always a great week, Abu Dhabi, to get the season started. The weather is perfect. The golf course is perfect. Yeah, just looking forward to getting going now.

STEVE TODD: How was your winter? Did you manage to get a bit of time to relax and take in everything that you achieved in the 2016 season?

MATT FITZPATRICK: Yeah, it took a few weeks, I've got to admit. But yeah, I had some time off and away from the golf. Didn't hit any balls till the last couple of days on my trip away and stuff. Yeah, it was actually nice to get away for a while and not think about golf.

Q. One of the things that you wanted to do over the break was find a new house for you. Has that materialised?
MATT FITZPATRICK: No. No. I went to look in Florida, but looking at my potential schedule this year, it's just a bit of a waste of money. So I'm not going to do that any time just yet anyway, unless things dramatically change.

Q. Just wondered when you were reflecting on what happened at Jumeirah Golf Estates a couple of months ago, did that change your perspective and goals slightly for this season, and sort of maybe speed up what you think you can achieve, do you know what I mean?
MATT FITZPATRICK: Yeah, I guess so. I think for me, the five-year exemption to play out here is big. It gives me effectively freedom for five years to sort of just do whatever I want, play whatever schedule I want.

So that's something that certainly I focus on, other aspects and playing a little bit more in America and stuff; but at the same time, balancing it by playing over here, as well.

So certainly gave me more confidence in knowing that I could sort of compete at the highest level, particularly with the field they had that week. It was nice obviously to come out on top.

Q. And does that change your targets for 2017?
MATT FITZPATRICK: Yeah, yeah, I guess so. It's like I say, exemption gives me a bit more freedom. I am going to try to get my PGA TOUR card this year and just see how I can do that.

Again, just my target is pretty much like every year, just keep climbing the World Rankings and get as high up as possible, really.

Q. As one of the brightest young talents in the world level, how do you think a tournament like this in a region where the game isn't necessarily as big as it is in Europe and over in America, how do you think this event can grow the game and people like yourself can kind of inspire the next generation of golfers in the Middle East?
MATT FITZPATRICK: Yeah, absolutely. I think Dustin and Rickie coming back, I think that's great for the tournament, and obviously Henrik is playing, as well, this year. It's great for the game. The people over here all know those names, probably a little bit more than most out here. There's no doubt they are going to look at that and come and watch the guys hit it.

Just like it goes for everyone out here; everyone can hit it great out here and I think that probably little kids see that and want to try and do the same.

Q. Could you just talk about switching management and what does that entail, and you taking more control and all of that.
MATT FITZPATRICK: Yeah, so I just wanted to sort of go down a little bit, a different route. I've not decided what I want to do yet. Right now I'm just on my own. I've got my lawyer and accountant and stuff and then my golf team.

But yeah, just taking my time, really. Want to pick either the right one or do it myself. Just sort of got ongoing discussions with my team on making a decision.

Q. Just talking about the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, you've played here twice, and it's not been the best of results for you. But what do you think has changed for yourself and how in these two years -- have you started hitting the ball further and things like that, and then how are you feeling about this year at this particular championship?
MATT FITZPATRICK: Yeah, the first year, I came off just a Top-10 the week before, which was my highest -- my best finish on The European Tour, even though I had not played that many tournaments. So I think that was a big deal. Probably took a lot out of me. Missed the cut by one that year.

Last year, I was playing pretty poorly at the start of the year. I think I was very happy with the tied 26th I think.

This year I feel is completely different. I've not played anything yet, but my game feels ten times better than it was this time last year and much more comfortable on this golf course. Yeah, I'm looking forward to playing tomorrow, really.

Q. Just wondered if over the break since Dubai, is there any technically you've been working on or focusing on?
MATT FITZPATRICK: No, nothing not all. Nothing at all. Sort of British Masters time last year, I got a couple of drills from my coaches, Mike and Pete, and I've just been doing them since. Just keeping on top of it through those, really. One of them's pretty difficult to master, so it always just keeps me working at it.

So I think that's a really good thing for me, because sometimes you can do the same thing for a while and overkill it a little bit and slip into bad habits. I've literally not done anything. No changes at all.

Q. Does that mean you're the type of player that doesn't like to tweak with things; if it's working, just keep going?
MATT FITZPATRICK: Absolutely. I feel technically that I'm pretty sound. I'm not one for messing around or trying to get in a different swing position. I've been coached by Mike and Pete Cowen for years now, so I think it's almost one of those, I've got my pattern and I know what I do when I hit my bad shots and I know what I do when I hit my good shots, and it's just a case of repeating the good ones more than the bad ones.

Q. Day before yesterday, I was walking the course and I noticed you playing a practice round with Martin. Even at this level that you are, do you pick his brains when you're playing a practice round with somebody who has as good a record as Martin on this golf course, and did you find out something that you didn't really realise in the first two years playing with him?
MATT FITZPATRICK: No, I mean, I asked him a little bit, but obviously I know how good he is around this golf course. I asked him a couple of questions, but it was more just we're good pals and just fancied nine holes early in the morning, really.

So for me, I still look back to four or five years ago when I was watching him on TV winning US PGA and I actually played the same U.S. Open he won, as well.

For me, it's still a little bit surreal that I know him, you know, Martin Kaymer, Henrik Stenson, guys like that. Yeah, it's good.

Q. What are the two drills, and which of the two is the one you refer to as the more difficult?
MATT FITZPATRICK: One of them is gripping the club cack-handed, left hand below right. I've sort of mastered that unofficially, I guess. And the other one is split, split-grip. So left hand -- well just like baseball but bigger separation between your hands. That one is a little bit more difficult. It's sort of, how to put it, exploits the fault that you do a little bit more. It makes it a little bit more obvious.

Q. And are they both short game drills?
MATT FITZPATRICK: No. I hit like -- I can hit any club. I can hit driver with both. But I tend to just hit 9-irons a hundred yards, 150 yards.

Q. After Dubai, are you going to concentrate on the PGA TOUR for a few months, and which events are you playing, and are you going to take up some sort of base there? Are you going to go back and forth?
MATT FITZPATRICK: Yes, I'm going to live there from about February 8 till May, right through till PLAYERS, basically. So I'll sort of have a schedule of two weeks on, one off, two weeks on, one off. But I'll not be coming home or anything. So I'll be sort of be in between Chicago and Florida, I guess, on my off-weeks, anyway. Looking forward to it.

STEVE TODD: Matt, thanks for joining us, and good luck this week.

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