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July 17, 2017
MIKE WOODCOCK: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the 146th Open here at Royal Birkdale. This is our first preview interview of the week and press conference. Delighted to be joined by Tommy Fleetwood this afternoon.
Tommy, you're coming into this week here at the Open, obviously a course very close to your home in Southport. You're coming in on the back of a great win in France, good performance in Ireland. Must give you a lot confidence going into The Open.
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yes, nice to be around, really. No question I've been playing very well. It doesn't always follow week in, week out. But I think just to be here is great. I think this week it's going to be an experience for me I'll never forget. It's very rare that you get a tournament this close to home. I know everybody wants to talk about that. It's a massive privilege to be playing at a tournament so close to home, and it being the British Open.
Yeah, it's going to be a great week for me no matter what.
MIKE WOODCOCK: Obviously you'll plenty of people out there following you, I'm sure.
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: I hope so. I've done something wrong in the past; this is not.
Q. Can you give us a sense of how you're feeling coming into this week, particularly in your hometown. Is that in a way extra pressure for you?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: No, no, not at all, really. I think it's -- I mean, you could look at it that way, but that's putting kind of a wrong spin on it. I'll have the most support I've ever had in my life, from people I've grown up with, friends, family, you name it.
No, I don't feel extra pressure from it. Obviously, it's going to be a different experience, for sure, something that I've never experienced before. But it will be great to have so many people out there rooting for you. It doesn't happen all the time when you have that many people, and they all wan you to do well. So I think it will be nice, and I'm sure, it will make me smile when I get there.
Q. I gather you played most of the courses around here, but not so much Birkdale. Did this course hold a bit of mystique about it because you couldn't play it on that much?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: When I bumped on. Yeah, well, I mean, Southport in itself is up there with, say, St. Andrews as a golfing town. That's what it is. There are so many golf courses, great golf courses. Yeah, for me growing up Royal Birkdale wasn't a course that I would be playing on. I've played it a few times. I've got mates that I've played with. You might get on once a year and have a game. But it's very different turning up and getting out of the car and going and playing 18 holes to actually prepare for a tournament, you see things you wouldn't quite know before and it is very different.
Yeah, growing up, I mean, when I was very little, it was Royal Birkdale, isn't it? If you ask anybody playing this week that's been here before they'll say it's one of the best courses in the world, very arguably the best Open venue. If you live five minutes away, you're going to try to get on when you can.
I might have be bunked on the other time and hit the odd shot. But that was about as far as it goes. Yeah, it's very cool. It was a course I would have crept on now and again. It's where The Open is and now I'm playing.
Q. Following up on that, if one wanted to sneak on to Royal Birkdale, where is the right place to go in and how exactly do you go about it?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: You can't sneak on the places that we used to sneak on anymore. The 5th was the place that used to be a lot more open, and it's got fences and bushes there now, so that's gone. You can't even got on to watch The Open anymore.
My dad now walks the dog, you start to the right of the 18th green, and you can walk all the way around past 17, at the back of 16th green, eventually you get to hillside and it's all one long walk. It's a very cool walk.
You can try, I wouldn't recommend it. I mean, we were very clever about it, or my dad was, not me. Yeah, it's a lot tougher these days.
Q. I'd imagine your recognition level has gone up quite dramatically this year, given you're recognizable anywhere. Are there any funny stories?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: I haven't been in Stones with much actually. I got recognized at the market the other day, but no, nothing that spectacular. There's nobody fainting in the street, as I walk past. So I'm still waiting for those days to come.
Q. Just wondering when what you might remember from '08 and '98 here and so forth.
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: '98 was my first Open I went to watch. And my first memory was just Justin Leonard who was on the cover of the book. I remember Tiger Woods walking past me. That was the first time I'd ever seen Tiger Woods, and the aura around him at the time. Apart from that, don't remember much about that, apart from I didn't get many autographs. I spent the time walking and faking them in my little book.
2008 again I didn't really -- I got to the final of the Amateur that year and lost. So that year I would have played in The Open if I had won the Amateur. I was a match away, basically, which was upsetting. So I didn't really watch much of it. I stayed at home. I either went and practiced on my own and didn't really watch much of it, because I was in a sulk because I didn't get to play it.
I remember the conditions last time being horrendous, and obviously the course played very, very hard. And it is that kind of course, really. It's tough, and the way it played last time was very difficult. But I tried not to watch it last time; that one hit me hard. So it's good that I made this one.
Q. Obviously the expectation levels are going to be sky high this week. Have you thought how you are going to manage it this week?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Well, it's better than nothing, for starters. I'd much rather be in this position where people might be talking about me as a contender than turning up and sort of being a no show.
Yeah, again, it's very different experience. Recent results have clearly put me in the eye and made people talk about me as a chance. I've won a couple of times this year. This is still The Open and there's so many things that go into it. I think that's the only thing with The Open, the luck of the draw goes into it, depending on the conditions. They're all the best players in the world. Golf is that funny game where you could turn it one day and feel terrible. There are so many things that can into it and all you can do is do what you can do -- just do what you can, really.
Yeah, I thought about winning The Open since I was five years old, so I think thinking about it another few days isn't going to make any difference to me.
It's nice to be spoke of in that light, to be honest. I find it very flattering and I mean, it doesn't affect me in any way, apart from it's very nice and makes me smile, really.
Q. If you had one thing to talk about Sergio's game, what's the thing that really strikes you?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: He's been one of the best ball-strikers in the world for a very, very long time, hasn't he? He's got one of the most functional swings, I think, in the world. And I think he's in a great place at the moment. I think he's very happy, isn't he? Put all those things together and Sergio Garcia has contended a lot in majors and big tournaments and he'll contend in more to come.
I have a lot of respect for him, for what he's done. And what a great player he is. I've been lucky to play with him a few times over the years. I played him in the World Match Play a few years ago. Actually what struck me was his short game. His short game was doing my head in because he was getting up and down from everywhere and beat me on the last. But overall he's been one of the best players in the world for a long time.
Q. This is kind of like a follow-on to the last question, dealing with expectations. A couple of years ago, because of your Dunhill links record, people were confident about your chances at St. Andrews.
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: So was I.
Q. Knowing that you were confident and you missed the cut, have you learned any lessons from that?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: No, I just played terrible on Friday, really. I had a great first round. I shot 3-under in the worst of the conditions that day on Thursday. And then Friday I turned up and played awful. I don't think I've ever -- I mean, I've had some great rounds around St. Andrews, and I didn't make a birdie that Friday. And it was just the way it was. I felt gutted after it and I should never have ever missed the cut or shot that score on Friday. But once that's done, you can't do anything about it.
Yeah, I went into the tournament. I loved the course, and had been playing great, and didn't play well, and basically that's golf. And unfortunately that's the way it is.
I feel fine coming into this week. That was two years ago, and this is two years ahead. It could happen again. But if it does, I'll just walk off Friday and it will be what it is. I'll be gutted for a day or two but then after start practicing again.
Q. And another sort of lesson learned, what came from your experience at the U.S. Open that you can transfer to this week?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: The main thing from the U.S. Open for me was when I woke up on Saturday and Sunday and I got to the course and I was warming up and everything and I started playing, the one thing was how I felt. That's the only thing you can go on. You can turn up and I could have shot two 66s or two 80s, but inside yourself you know how you felt, and you can feel whether you can do it or not. I felt comfortable. I enjoyed it. Warming up on Saturday all I wanted to do was get out on the course. So that for me was great.
I walked off. I didn't play very well on Sunday, a couple of putts could have dropped. I made a couple of up-and-downs. I didn't play well enough when Brooks played. I watched the winner play, which is great. But I think just showing to myself that I feel all right in that situation. I'd never done it before. And I felt if the time comes again when I'm contending in a major, I know that I can do it, really. And I felt fine. And I felt comfortable. Of course you're nervous, but I wasn't out of control. I wasn't fearful. I didn't back away from any shots. And that was -- I was proud of that, really, in a way. And the first time I've ever contended in a major and I felt all right. That's what I take away from that whenever the time comes again.
Q. A two-part Southport question: Growing up what were one or two of your favourite public spots in the town? And what is your distance of your commute this week?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Public spots, spent all my time on the golf courses, I think, and that was about it. I mean it's actually -- it's actually a lovely town, Southport. People that stay here this week, I hope will have a nice time. This is where I grew up, so I have a lot of pride in the place. I'm sure you'll have a nice time. There's a lot of parks in the area, beach, not quite West Palm beaches, but they're nice, apart from the weather.
What was the second part?
Q. Distance of your commute?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Well, I live an hour away now, which is fine, not bad at all. If anything comes up or an early tee time, I've got mom and dad around the corner. I'm sure my mom would be happy to have me around again.
But yeah, the drive, in itself, is fine. It's not bad at all, I just live more in the countryside now.
Q. How excited are you with the draw, Hideki Matsuyama, and of course Brooks Koepka?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yes, it is a nice draw. Two guys that I know quite well. It's quite a big draw, isn't it, TV draw. Nice to be part of it. I mean, who you play with shouldn't matter. I know it's obviously a crowd pleaser, anyway, crowd draw, hoping I would be that on my own.
It will be good. It's nice to play with people you're comfortable with. As much as people said it doesn't make a difference, it kind of does if you're at ease with people you're playing with. And hopefully we'll kind of build of momentum for each other.
It will be great. It's nice to be playing with the best players in the world. It's always a pleasure. It's always a treat. And I don't really watch anybody else play, but you always pick up something that you learn from them when you're playing with the best players in the world. So, yeah, it will be great.
Q. You're 26 and you're an Everton fan. Can you actually ever remember them winning anything?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: No -- well, that was in '95? No, too little for that, but we'll win the league this year.
Q. If you were to win it, would you ask to take the Claret Jug along?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: I hope so.
Q. That would be nice, wouldn't it?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: It would. It might be a big year for us if I can start it off. But, yeah, let's not talk about the last few years. We'll be fine in the future.
Q. Can you talk about the work you've been doing for your mindset?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Mind-wise? Yeah, I mean nothing really scares me. There's always things that faze people. I think the main part of it for me is how happy I am off the course. I think my life is fantastic. That plays a massive part in how you feel and how you deal with things. And I do have a very good sort of psychologist that I work with, I mean these days my time management is a lot better. I meditate a lot. I know myself a lot better, really.
I think after -- I don't particularly like talking about it much, but after a year of struggling, when you start playing better, you have a much better perspective on the game. And this year, as good as it's been, I felt comfortable and I felt like I was taking it in my stride for right now. Yeah, nothing -- at the end of the day, when things are good off the course, what happens on it, it does matter, because it's your job and it's your life and all my dream and ambitions stick around golf. But whatever happens I'm going to go home and everything is going to be as good as it's ever been. So what more do you really want? You can have up and downs and I know that, as good as anybody, because I've had them. And I think you just have to take this game in your stride, really, and that's just how it is. And I'll continue to look at it that way.
Q. How has it been coming home and seeing banners?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: I've never had a banner with me on it in Southport before. Yeah, when you come home it's nice to see people that you -- I don't get to spend much time at home, travel a lot, with a busy schedule. And it's always nice to see your friends, members of the golf club. My face is on a lot of lampposts at the moment. But it's just nice being acknowledged and people know -- people that know you, know how much hard work you put in; it's nice to be congratulated for it.
It's nice to see things like my old school did. They had a massive banner, and all the kids saying "good luck", and I think it's just lovely. It's very great. It's very touching, actually, seeing things like that. And, yeah, I mean the banners will be off in a couple of weeks, so best not get used to it too much. It's been lovely coming back.
Q. How has it been for your family, as well?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: My dad is the same as he's always been. He's more interested in his own golf half the time. He's down to ten again. And they're like any good partners are, they want me to do well and do anything for me to get there. And if I don't, then that's -- they love me, so they're not -- I'm sure they're very proud, and there's nothing bad in calling my dad up after France. He had a few drinks and he was made up and was happy. There's nothing better than that because you've made him proud.
So, yeah, it was great having success to give him a few more pictures for the house, really.
MIKE WOODCOCK: Tommy, best of luck this week. Thanks for joining us.
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Thanks guys.
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