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April 3, 2017

Tommy Fleetwood

Augusta, Georgia

MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. It's my pleasure to welcome Tommy Fleetwood to Augusta National for the first time.
Tommy is one of 11 players in the field from England, and the most we've had in a single Masters from England.
He began 2017 with a win at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and finished solo second at the WGC México Championship. His strong play over the course of the season has moved him to 32nd in the World Rankings.
Before we open up to questions, Tommy, can you describe your feelings on making your first Masters appearance?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Well, yeah, it's very cool. I came to watch in 2014. I kind of came with the intentions of being there the following year and finished 51st in the world that year, so I just missed out. But watching and playing is a completely different ‑‑ it's very different and there was places I wanted to get to when I was watching. Sort of the 12th green and 13th tee were the ones. When you're watching it, it's so busy behind the 12th tee, and they look like the most tranquil place on the planet and that's where I really wanted to get to. So having been there and played the holes, that's been the biggest moment for me so far, actually getting to where I kind of envisioned myself being.

Q. What was the reason behind coming as a spectator in 2014? And has it lived up to all the expectations so far?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, well, I thought I would be playing the following year but I failed at that one. But I just wanted to see it. I think whoever you speak to just says not just how the golf course, but the surroundings, the Club, everything takes a little bit of getting used to. Augusta, it's in everybody's mind and everybody's dreams and it's just that place that you know that you want to go to, so it's a little bit surreal when you first go. I had a chance the go, and I thought, I'll go, because I just want to see what it's like and when I do come, I might not be as awestruck. But it doesn't quite work like that; when you get to the golf course, it's still the same feelings.
Yeah, it doesn't disappoint when you arrive, and you drive down Magnolia Lane. Like I say, the main things for me, my biggest excitement was watching over the bridge to 12 and standing on the 13th tee. Those were the two places when I watched I couldn't get to and I was desperate to get there. So those were my biggest ‑‑ that's what I was most excited about.

Q. You haven't been around this golf course that many times, but based on the times you have, how important is creativity at Augusta National, to play successfully? It's a big golf course and a lot of people have said, you know, you need to be a power player, but a lot of players who are not necessarily power players have done well. What's the role of creativity?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Well, I think from playing it a couple of times, the first thing that struck me was it's the first course I've ever seen where precision is so important. It's the biggest course I've ever seen for that. It's kind of forgiving off the tee a little bit, but the fairways are quite wide but you still have to take the tee shots on to give yourself the best chance of hitting the iron shots in. Obviously you can end up in all kind of spots, and I mean, I've not‑‑ I've never played a tournament and I've not had years of hitting it in certain places where I know what it's like.
But around the greens, there's no other place like it. I mean, we play a lot of courses where it's kind of simple to wander around and go, well, you can't hit it there or over there is a good miss and that will be fine. Sometimes it only takes one practice round but this place is very, very different. But yeah, it strikes you, you can see why it's not only power hitters that win, because approach shots to the green, the course can work in your favor as much as it can harm you, and if you are on your game and your irons are very precise, then you can use it to your advantage.

Q. You mentioned that you finished 51st one year and just missed, but you've been on that bubble for a few years now and just at the wrong time bouncing in and out of the Top‑50. How frustrating was it to keep missing out on getting here and how satisfying was it to sort of take the bubble out of the equation this year with the way you played?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Well, I dropped quite a long way at one point last year, and I mean, in all honesty, one of the greatest accomplishments I've had in my career was going from, I think I was around 200th in the world to actually qualifying for the Masters this year. It wasn't in our thoughts at all and it wasn't even in our thoughts at start of this year. I wasn't in the event.
When we set out goals at the start of the year, I wanted to be open in my Masters invite at the end of the year, so that would mean I'd have got myself back into the Top‑50 in the world where I wanted to be and I've had a very successful year. So it's all come very quickly.
Yeah, I took myself, the highest I ever got was 47th and then you're always on and around that bubble. Top‑50 in the world, that's where everybody kind of looks to get to because that's when you play the world circuit. And when you're on the bubble, it's hard, if you don't get any further into it. It's hard to stay there because one bad week, two bad weeks and you're out and then you have a decent week and you get back in, but it's hard work.
Good results put myself in, yeah, 32, highest I have ever been and comfortable at the moment. It was nice knowing that I was going to be playing the Masters for a few week.

Q. Prior to 2014, what was your first memory of watching the Masters?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: As a kid? Watching Faldo winning in '96, but that was a vague memory. I remember him holing a putt on 11.
And then '97 was Tiger Woods and I remember sitting in the lounge at my dad's, sort of going on about how good this guy is going to be, or this is unbelievable watching it. That was the first Masters I fully watched, and I've watched pretty much every one since. It's just that tournament that you never miss, every year, no matter where you are, you're watching it.

Q. You talked about the fact that now you're in the Top‑50. How important is this week for new terms of your career, the fact that you have your PGA TOUR card wrapped up, Top‑50 in the world, first Masters?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, it will be very important if I've won. It's just, it is a landmark in your career, playing the Masters. It's the hardest tournament to get into and you speak to a lot of great TOUR players and especially over in Europe, that the Masters is the one they had not done, although they will have played PGAs or they will have qualified for the U.S. Open or got in The Open. But absolutely, getting into the Masters is very difficult.
I think it's just always going to be a landmark for people's career, something that they want to enjoy, hopefully. I'm not counting on this being my only chance, but it is great to be here and it's very‑‑ it just, for me, it's an accumulation of a lot of hard work over the last year, coming from a long way down the World Rankings and struggling.
So it's just a nice little bonus on top of what's been super golf.

Q. You mentioned obviously about winning and everybody knows the statistic of nobody winning on their debut since 1979. What are your realistic goals or expectations for the week, given how well you've played this year?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: I mean, I don't know. I actually put my name down with Fuzzy Zoeller in the Par 3 because I know he's the only one that's done it. He's the only one that has won the first time, so I thought maybe that might give me some vibes.
You do never know. I'm not setting my expectations, I'm not going to sit here and say, I expect to win. But you never know. You've just got to get your head down, and it's me against the golf course and it's just me plugging on in my career whatever happens.
It would be nice. A lot of shots I feel comfortable with on the course. I think tee shots‑wise, if you can get a good visual with your irons, then that's that job done and then sort of where to take it on and where not to, and the greens, like I say, I've not got any experience of missing it in certain spots or knowing what is a horrendous chip shot or knowing that you can't go there. That's what a first‑timer is missing, but I'll try my hardest to get as much as I can.
I managed to get a few holes with Mark O'Meara yesterday and Billy Foster, Lee Westwood, just trying to get as much information as we can and seeing how we go. It all depends on how you play, as well. At the end of the day, you can play terribly, so that makes no difference at all. Hopefully I can make a good showing of myself. Stranger things have happened. I've got no massive expectations. It is great to be here and hopefully there will be a lot more.

Q. You sort of answered this but you're halfway through, or less, your first visit and you've talked to a lot of people. At this stage, are you in a position to say what you regard as the most important thing you have to do this week? The one most important thing.
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: I would say, I would say get your irons in the right spots. That's what it comes across to me is being precise with your irons. Like I say, I think it's‑‑ I think it is‑‑ if you're hitting it okay, it is quite forgiving off the tee, as long as you get your irons right. There's a lot of tee shots that the bunkers kind of maybe feel like you have to take them on and you don't. There's a lot of room either side.
And I do think the course, we've seen tons of shots over the years that the ball is feeding down, players are using the greens and they can hole shots. I mean, 13, 14, holes like that where the slopes can work in your favor as much as harm you. I do think without being ‑‑ you can't be greedy into the greens, and obviously it's keeping mistakes to a minimum.
And I would say, getting your irons on some and making sure you're not greedy but making sure you hit the right shot at the right time.

Q. Go back to when you came back and visited here in 2014. A lot of players don't want to do that. They say they never are going to come to Augusta until they qualify. How long did you spend out here, and did guys recognize you or anybody else recognize you when you were around the course, and what were your stand‑out memories from that week?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: I was staying pretty under the radar, but I just wanted to walk around. I obviously wanted to see where I was going. I wanted to know what the clubhouse looked like or I wanted to know where the locker room and stuff was. Obviously I couldn't get in anywhere.
And then I wanted to, I actually wanted to see the best players in the world play, as well. I don't think you can be‑‑ I think that's better than a lot of practice, if you can actually watch the guys that are here and at the time are the best players in the world, watching how they go about their business and what they are doing.
I saw a lot of how they were preparing for the golf course. I saw a lot‑‑ I watched Thursday and Friday morning, I think, and then I had to leave because I was playing the next week. But I was just watching how they went about it and then getting a feel for the course.
Like I say, the one thing I wanted to do was that behind the 12th tee, as far as you can go, you walk down the right of 11 and then the rope starts and there's a concession stand, and it's a really noisy, busy place. And then you see the players hit the shots in and they walk over the bridge and then it looks like you could hear a pin drop on the 12th green and 13th tee. I was looking at that and my shoulders were getting barged out of the way, and that's where I wanted to be. That was my biggest memory of that point, because that moment, I thought, well, I want to get there.
Having played the hole, obviously I stopped for a little moment there because I thought, yeah, we've got there now. Around the course, it's hard‑‑ it's actually hard to appreciate good shots when you're on the sidelines. I think you kind of know but then again, walking around, you can't‑‑ you don't get a feel for how difficult a lot of the shots are, how a lot of the chip shots are. That's what I was missing but then I'm trying to get the most out of that in practice.

Q. Are you staying with any players for this week? Where are you staying?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: I'm in a house with my fiancée and my caddie and his wife and my coach, as well. So there's a few of us in the house. Step‑kids, as well. It's just a family atmosphere in the house.

Q. What's your favorite hole on the golf course, your favorite shot on the golf course and the one shot you don't fancy?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: I think it's hard to pick one hole. I do like 6 and 12. I think they are great par 3s. I like hitting the second shot into 2. I like hitting the second shot into 15. Second shot into 13 is a lot harder than I thought it was when you watch it on TV and they just seem to plunk it on the green every time. It's a lot harder when you actually have to do it and the ball is above your feet.
I haven't really experienced anything I don't really fancy so far. I mean, the course is firming up, so it's getting tougher than last week when I came. It's quite soft and you kind of played it and you thought, well, it's playable at the moment. But the more it firms up, the more I'm sure it plays tougher. I'll have to learn that. But there's not massives I don't fancy. There might be come Thursday if I'm feeling a little iffy, but for now everything seems different in practice, but there's nothing I'm too worried about at the moment.

Q. On the back of that answer, is there any spot on the course where you've actually walked over to someone just played a shot that's won a Masters or someone that's played a miracle shot?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: I did it when I came to watch. I think 2014, so I was close to when Bubba won in the playoff and had a hook out of the trees. I went to walk where Mickelson hit a shot‑‑ I think they are missing a tree now. Tiger's chip, shots that you remember, you have to have a look at. All of them are spots that I really don't want to be in, so I'm trying to avoid them.
But, yeah, I think there's just so many shots. You remember Larry Mize chipping in at 11. I think just that tournament, and it's the only place that you can go where you've watched it every year and you know these spots and you actually know pretty much the exact spot and you can walk there. And I think that's part of the uniqueness of the event that you can actually go and walk on those spots and remember.

Q. You finished a shot ahead of DJ in Abu Dhabi and just a shot behind him in México and he comes in here on the back of three wins. Is he unbeatable or are we all getting a bit carried away?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: I beat him (laughter) (smiling).
He's getting good, that's for sure. It's very, very impressive what he's doing. I mean, he's not massively on my radar. I can't really think about what he's doing. I'm sure he can do stuff that I can't and I'm sure if you sat here and asked him if he's worried about me, he wouldn't say‑‑ it's been impressive to watch.
I think there's not been too many runs like he's had. I think Rory did it when he won The Open and the PGA and Bridgestone. Tiger did it a few times. But he's in some pretty elite company at the moment with how he's playing. It's not good for us if he keeps it going and keeps playing like that. But he's not something I can think about, really. I'm sure he's hitting it in spots I can't off the tee, too.

Q. You and Ross getting in here did put the count to 11 English golfers, which is not just a record for England; I think it's a record for any country other than America in this tournament. What does it say about the state of English golf right now?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: It's strong. It's brilliant. I think you know, we can all be very proud of how it's going. It ebbs and flows and everybody remembers, when I think Lee was the only person in the Top‑50 or Top‑100 in the world at one point and now you've got 11 guys in the Masters. It's brilliant for English golf. It shows how strong the players are. I think it shows how good system is at the moment, and I think it's very motivating for younger guys playing. You're always proud when the Olympics come on and GB do so well. But yeah, I think it is amazing. It's amazing the achievements from 11 players. It's something else, really.
I'm sure none of us really‑‑ again, I'm sure none of us think about it at the time but when you do sit back and think about it, you think America is the only place that's ever had more, it's a very big achievement.

Q. We know people know Faldo won here three times, won the British Open. What about Luke and Westwood becoming No. 1? Do you think that they got the play back home they might have deserved?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, well, both amazing careers and I think they both had chances. I remember Lee chipping in on the last day one year and he was getting close and then Lee, we know he's been close a couple of times.
It's tough. It's tough when people's careers are defined on majors, really. And I think if you talk to anybody about Lee, at the time that he was at his peak, they would say he's amongst the best ball‑strikers they have ever seen, people that have been here a long time, so I think he deserves a lot of credit for that.
Certainly one of my dreams in my life is to be the best player in the world. I think everybody that starts off, we want majors and everything, but to be the best in the world, even if it was for a week, I think is something that you'd remember forever and something that you can always say, no, can't take it away.
Yeah, they do deserve a lot of credit for doing that. It's very hard nowadays because there's so many good players and it is‑‑ I think world No. 1 is as good as it gets, isn't it?
MODERATOR: Tommy, we wish you all the best during your first Masters.

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