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January 22, 2017

Tommy Fleetwood

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

STEVE TODD: Pleased to welcome Tommy Fleetwood. Fantastic day out there. Just got the trophy sitting here with us. Try and sum up your emotions after that day out on the golf course.

TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, a bit up-and-down. After nine holes, it was just -- didn't really see it coming, but you have to keep going and you have to keep plugging on.

Things turned around so quickly. And then it was, yeah, from chasing, to not being anywhere; you're leading and you're the one that's being chased. But you know, I got a good break on the last. Played 16 great. Played 17 great. Got a good break on the last and made the most of it.

STEVE TODD: Three years since your first victory. Has this one been coming? There's been good signs of form over the last sort of six months.

TOMMY FLEETWOOD: There has the last six months. I had a really rough time from sort of July 2015 to July 2016 where I played, I was really struggling with my game. Things turned around and I've been on an up trend sort of from August really, and towards the end of the year I had good finishes, British Masters, DP World, Hong Kong. So the next step up is to win after that.

STEVE TODD: Obviously your first victory is always a special one, but with the quality of the field out there today, how proud are you of what you've achieved?

TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, some good players chasing. Very, very proud. I did really just concentrate on my own game, kept going. 31 on the back nine on a Sunday is great, no matter who you are, and I think that's probably what I'm most proud of over the week.

Q. I just wondered that rough time you referred to, what was the root cause of that? Did you have technical issues going on? Was your mind kind of scrambled?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, I tried changing my swing because I thought it would make me better. I thought it would make me a world-class golfer. I was a bit naïve and I was a bit silly and just got going the wrong way, and that was all. I couldn't do the things that I was trying to do.

From there, the strengths of my game like my driving, I was really struggling off the tee. I couldn't get it off the tee and I just had way too many bad shots. It was killing my golf game off, really. When your strengths have gone, that's when it becomes most hardest.

I went back to my old coach, who I've had, Alan Thompson, who he's coached me since I was 13. This is my third stint with him. He coached me through the England setup, and when I first turned pro, he was coaching for a couple of years; and we had a bit of a time-out and he's come back again.

But actually we've been able to do things we've always wanted to work on. It's hard when things are going well to make the changes that you want. We're still doing it, really. My swing is not where we want it yet, but it's very close, and we've been able to build a swing that we've always wanted to do but never actually had the chance. It's been cool, really.

Q. Was this a wholesale change? Because you talked about the caddie, as well. What's the caddie's full name, and when did you start with him? And was this a wholesale change; you thought: Right, back to basics and make a big change.
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: His name is Ian Finnis. He's been one of my best mates for 15 years. F-i-n-n-i-s. Ian is I-a-n. I'm only joking.

But he caddied for me when I was an amateur for a bit and he caddied for me when I first got on Tour. We had always said, when the time come up again, when the opportunity arose, we would give it a go. To be fair, there's not a lot of people that thought it would work.

We started in July and he had four weeks of -- it was, started at Germany, BMW. Then France, Scotland and The Open, and still my game was nowhere near any good and I was struggling. We stuck at it and we knew it would come good. He's been a massively positive influence, really. I can't give him enough credit for how good he's been for me.

Yeah, him put together with Alan, those two, change; it wasn't like starting again from scratch. But it was, these are the things I kind of need to do. I'm in a bad place with my game, not enjoying it and I'm hitting it terrible; what are we going to do about it.

So and it didn't come all at once. It happened quicker than we thought it would. I started working with Alan in May and we still thought, you know, it's going to take a year, at least, to sort of get to somewhere where I thought I would be now.

Q. Yesterday there was one, that particular hole, where the Future Falcon boys were hitting their shots. And it was very interesting to see you interacting in the middle of the round and heat of the round and smiling with them, which was very rare for the other pros to do. Is that something that you just are enjoying your golf a lot more because you're playing well, or have you always been like that on the golf course?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: I'm enjoying it more now I'm playing well. But no, if there's somebody is there, I'm going to chat to them. I wasn't going to ignore a little kid, and he was quite funny, as well. I just wanted to talk to him down the hole.

I felt good and I felt kind of relaxed. I felt fine all week, really. Coming down the stretch, your heart rate starts getting up but before that -- and I still enjoyed it, really. The more you enjoy it and the more you smile, and I have little goals every week, really.

Me and Ian make little goals, and one of them this week was to smile. So it worked. I'm going to put it in next week's now. But yeah, the more you style and the more you have a good time, the better things are going to be. It's obvious, but it's hard to do when things aren't going great.

Q. Also, I wanted to ask you, you're one of the very few pros who are now still using the Nike clubs. What are the plans for that and why have you stuck to that?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Well, they are working all right (laughter). I really like the equipment, and I've used Nike for a very long time.

I've been with Nike since I was 13, Nike clubs and everything. This week was the first time I had ever used a ball in a tournament that wasn't a Nike ball. I've made little switches but the irons I've used for a very long time.

Clubs that I have tested, there's clubs that I would never change. My 5-wood is my favourite club in the bag. I could never change that. And the driver, I've just not found anything that is better yet. Time will come eventually. I'm sure I'll have to.

But you know, at the moment, it's the best equipment for me, and it was when Nike were making clubs, it was the best for me then. I'm not going to change just for the sake of it now that we have a chance. Like I say, the strongest part of my game is my driving. So it's hard to change when it is a strength, just for the sake of changing because you have the option. But I've just not found anything better yet.

Q. Where was it on the back nine that you actually realised you were in the lead?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: At which point? I knew Kiradech was leading and I think I got level with him on 11. He kept holing really good putts, though, which was driving me mad, because he won't miss (laughter).

But I knew -- they (Kiradech and Martin Kaymer) started off very fast and I knew those two were the ones that were leading. It helps when you're playing with the leaders, because you know where you have to be.

But until 11, there was no point in thinking about it. I was a bit behind and I had to just keep going and keep playing my own game, and the chip-in on 10, it's an obvious turning point in the day, or it's an obvious, massive momentum-builder. But when you do that, it's so easy to get overexcited, because I knew I had got within one or whatever.

I had a three-shot swing with Martin on that hole. But standing on the 11th tee, you could completely cock it up after that because you're so excited. It was more important to me to play the next two holes well. I could easily go bogey, bogey then and it was pointless chipping in, kind of thing.

But the 11th was the best hole I played all day, a perfect drive and a great wedge, exactly where I wanted to hit it and knocked the putt in. But 11 and 12 were bigger holes than 10 real.

Q. And can you recount the second chances with Andy McFee and the drop?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: I was stood on the path, so you get a drop. It was obviously a nicer bit of grass. There was two bits of grass, a nice bit and a bad bit, and I didn't really want to go to the bad bit. There's a line that I had to drop it over to make it a legal drop, basically. I can't drop it when I'm still stood on the path.

It just took me a few goes because I was trying to get it right on the edge of it. But yeah, I did actually get a really good drop in the end. It settled nicely and I was never going to not take the shot on.

Q. 3-wood, 262?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, 260, 264, to the pin was 44 on, so that ends up being a long way. It would be so easy to say -- I couldn't miss it, and if it was in the bunker, it's a 50-yard bunker shot, which you could make a mess of. But like I say, you can't really think like that and you can't play like that. If you want to win, go for it, and if I had made par, I would have been in a three-way playoff.

Q. Just wonder if you can talk about the dynamic of playing in threes, when you're in the thick of a very congested leaderboard, and obviously as you rose up there. How different is it to when you're in the thick of it and you're playing in twos?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter that much. It doesn't change how I'd hit a golf shot just because I'm in a three-ball and not a two-ball. I think two-balls go quicker. So two-ball, you have less time to think about things I guess.

But it really makes very little difference. If you're feeling good and you're doing the right things, three-ball should make absolutely no difference to a two ball. But it does go slower than -- two-balls, it's very easy to just play freer, I guess, but it don't make that much difference.

Q. Would you prefer the quicker pace of a two-ball?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: I don't mind. I'm out there with one of my best mates, so I don't mind whether four hours or five. It don't make any difference. We'll be all right (smiling).

Q. You touched on it before, that there was some big names chasing you, three major champions, Dustin, Henrik and Martin. Does that make it a lot sweeter that you held off three of the big names in golf?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, it was a very good field this week. Yeah, you know, if you do look at leaderboards, I know Henrik started pretty well. Martin started great, and Dustin was right there at the end like he was always going to be.

At the end of the day, they are world beaters. They have won majors and they have won the biggest tournaments in golf, so they know how to get it done and they know what they are doing when they get up there.

So yeah, I think I'm happy that I sort of proved myself in such a strong field, really. I think the winning scores are always pretty much the same but just when there's the best players, yeah, it's a very big deal to sort of prove yourself against some of the world's best.

Q. 66 greens in regulation out of 72. How easy is that to do at the beginning of the year, or how difficult is it to make that kind of a stat?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Well, don't really expect to miss six (laughter). That's generally -- that is pretty much how I play; when I'm playing well, I hit a lot of fairways with my driver and I hit a lot of greens, and if I was going to break a course down, I'd do it that way. I've never been much of a scrambler, if you like.

But it definitely makes this course easy when you're hitting greens, because it's tricky. The greens are perfect, but they are firm and they are fast. You want to avoid sort of -- you want to avoid chipping or hitting bunker shots as much as you can; and if you're not going to make many bogeys, which you shouldn't do if you hit the greens. I don't remember having a 3-putt, but I might have in the week.

But if you hit that many greens and you don't 3-putt, there's something wrong if you don't end up near the lead at the end of the week.

Yeah, those I did hit my irons very well this week. Especially days like today, could have been easy to get sucked into going for a few pins, but patience is massive. You can hit to 40 feet away a lot, which you're not going to make many birdies, but you just have to keep on it. Hitting the greens was more important than sort of attacking most of the day.

Q. Just looking ahead, I think I heard you're going to go to the Top-50 maybe tomorrow.
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: That's nice, isn't it.

Q. Masters maybe, few months. How excited are you about the next few months, and the way you're playing, as well?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, there's still a lot of golf to go. So I have to stay on it really. But one of the big goals when we sort of started playing was you can look at the WGCs and the Masters and when the cutoffs are, and it's Top-50 in the world or Top-10 in the Order of Merit or whatever the criteria is. Hong Kong set me up nicely, good finish there.

But there's still -- there is still a lot of golf to go, so I have to stay on it really. If you're playing well, you need to make the most of it. But yeah, I think the sooner I get in the Top-50 in the world, the better, and then I want to kick on from there really. You don't want to be hanging around. I got to 47 once and I dropped out very quickly. You don't want to be hanging around the 50 mark.

I want to get as high as I can. So I'll just -- actually I won't really think about it tonight but come Tuesday, I'll be preparing for next week.

STEVE TODD: Thank you, Tommy. Congratulations.

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