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November 14, 2017

Matthew Fitzpatrick

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

MICHAEL GIBBONS: Matt, welcome back. Always a pleasure to welcome back the defending champion, especially to the DP World Tour Championship.

I suppose a little trip down memory lane. Reflect, if you could, give us sort of what were your thoughts when you return to how you won last year's victory and how important that was.

MATT FITZPATRICK: Yeah, it's obviously fantastic to be back. Sort of came at the start of the year for a few days before Abu Dhabi, but it was a little different. There was no stands. The condition wasn't quite as good. It was windy and a bit cold, actually.

Yeah, it's great to be back. Sort of see it all and sort of where it all finished last year on 18, sort of looking forward to the Pro-Am. One of the Pro-Ams I'm most looking forward to, just sort of to bring back memories and think about the shots we hit over the four rounds here. No but could be an exciting week.

MICHAEL GIBBONS: Twelve months ago, but you seem to be playing well at the moment. Great time to be defending?

MATT FITZPATRICK: Yeah, my game's trending nicely I feel. Sort of the last eight, nine week, been playing really solid and it would be nice to peak again this week, actually. Hopefully that's going to be the case.

Q. Sorry to dwell on the negatives, but what went wrong? What do you think; why was it a late start to the year?
MATT FITZPATRICK: It was actually a fairly decent start to the year. My caddie actually told me probably four, five months in, I actually made the same amount of points as I did the whole of last year without DP World win.

So like it was an okay start, but just I had a really poor summer. I'm not really sure why. I know I didn't drive it particularly well in that period but I couldn't really put my finger on it to be honest. It was just a bad run of form. Just didn't really play well. Never really got anything going. But sort of, yeah, that's about, it really.

Q. I know you've shown you can play long courses, but when you look at this, 7,700, and when the stands weren't up, did it look even longer, and was it a little bit of a surprise to you last year, even if it wouldn't be now?
MATT FITZPATRICK: I guess so. I think I played like nine holes -- I think I played the back nine when I came here in January. I think just the way that the golf course plays and the way the holes are shaped, I don't think the length, I don't feel like it plays 7,700 yards.

Obviously the referees move the tees up and stuff like that, but I just think where certain bunkers are placed, it doesn't really play that length, I guess. I think sort of certainly today, it will be interesting to see how it plays, because I'm sure it's sort of dry and firm as it was last year and the ball runs a long way. I don't think it's too bad.

Q. What's the focus next year? When you've established yourself as a Tour player and Ryder Cup and all that kind of stuff, what's the focus next year?
MATT FITZPATRICK: Yeah, my goal is to make the team, make Thomas's Ryder Cup Team, basically. Yeah, that is my main aim of the year.

Obviously within that, I'll be playing a little bit in the States, as well, if I happen to pick up enough points for a card, as well, probably take it up the year after. But mainly just focus on Europe, play well over here.

I think obviously with the new Rolex Series, it's something that's sort of exciting and it's done a great job this year. I think that's the good thing about playing in Europe now; you've got these big events that carry big World Ranking points, and it's where you want to be.

Q. Did playing the PGA TOUR this year maybe hinder you a little bit?
MATT FITZPATRICK: The start? Yeah, I played -- I mean, for the guys in the Top-50, obviously the WGCs over in America, there's obviously two or three of them in that short period of time between like February and May, I guess.

So you know you're going to go over for that, and Top-50, you get into PLAYERS and there's various others.

Q. In terms of your poor summer, can that we put down to perhaps trying to play a bit more on the PGA TOUR?
MATT FITZPATRICK: Oh, sorry. No, I don't think so. I just think it was one of those, I just purely wasn't playing very well. I was doing okay in The Open and I actually just had a really poor last round. Dropped me quite far down.

Irish Open, got off to a great start. Just had two distinctly average rounds that just dropped me down a ton. The course was really scorable all week.

Scottish Open, just putted like my dad (laughter), and so didn't make anything and missed the cut just by one. It was really poor. I'm not denying the fact, but that's the week -- you can sort of have weeks where everything goes your way and you finish Top-10, and other times you feel like you've played great, don't hole anything or vice versa. Yeah, just one of those things, I think.

Q. Could you explain, please, what you have to do well to play well around here, this particular course?
MATT FITZPATRICK: I think it's very much -- actually, I'm lying now. I looked at my stats the other day. I was to say it's very much a second-shot golf course, but according to my stats last year, my second shots weren't very good. They were distinctly average. I actually putted just phenomenally last year.

I don't know if any of you are familiar with the strokes gained stats, but I was plus 9 1/2 I think for putting, and I think I was plus 2 1/2 for driving. So I would suggest just drive it and putt it well, and you'll be all right (laughter).

But I think the fairways are wide enough that you kind of don't have to worry too much off the tee. There's a couple bunkers where you just play sort of anyway, and you might have a 6-iron or instead of a wedge or 9-iron; I think that's just where you take your medicine on those holes, and there's plenty others where you can score.

Q. Will you quickly just tell us, what you think the things are about Tommy's game and about Justin's games that strike you?
MATT FITZPATRICK: Tommy, I've only played with him once this year. I played with him in Italy and I think he shot like 7-under or something. He did play very well. He just drove it very steady. Hit his irons really, really good. I think that's his big thing this year is he's really sort of hit his irons great. He had a lot of chances inside 15 feet in that round I seem to remember, so I think that must be a key part to his game.

And then Justin's sort of the same thing. He drives it long and straight. He's a fantastic iron player. I always remember him -- played with him in 2014 U.S. Open and me and my caddie at the time came off and just said that he had an unbelievable iron game, which he did. He was sort of hitting 4-irons up his nose and stuffing them with three yards. I think that's always been what he's been good at and that's what makes him what he is.

Q. You mentioned qualifying for The Ryder Cup Team next year. Obviously your first experience wasn't what you would have liked. What will you take from that, assuming you qualify for Paris? What lessons will you have learned from Hazeltine?
MATT FITZPATRICK: I think the big thing I did learn, obviously you can't guarantee it, but I feel like I've got to play a fourball game. I feel like you've got to play your own ball before you play on Sunday. Just because so you have a feeling of what it's like to hole out from five, six foot for the halve or for the win, whatever it might be.

I just think it gives you a bit more confidence playing the golf course. I played one foursomes game last year, and you know, you're hitting half the shots, and even that, it didn't really feel like you're hitting any shots at all.

So there's never any momentum to your game, and you turn up Sunday, and you sort of almost don't really know what's going on in a way. So you almost don't know where you're hitting it because you've never played the golf course other than in practise. We all know practise is nothing like the real thing. So that would be my big thing.

Q. Was that possibly a product of losing the first session 4-0 and Darren had to go with Plan B? Were you supposed to play a fourball; do you know?
MATT FITZPATRICK: I'm not really sure to be honest. I don't know. I think obviously the article that went out previous to -- well, didn't help anyone in the Europe team, anyway. I think that caused a few issues. But I think it was obviously difficult for Darren to chuck in rookies. He didn't want to sort of mess it up in a way. He wanted us to try and trust the experience.

But I think it's just one of those things that I've sort of learned from and I know that ideally, if I can, I'll try and get a fourball game before Sunday, if I qualify next time.

Q. Speaking to Thomas last month, he was fairly confident that the rookies wouldn't be scarred by the experience of defeat; that there wouldn't be a hangover next year. Would you feel the same way? Do you think it was just one of those things?
MATT FITZPATRICK: Yeah, definitely. Again, for me, without being rude, I barely played. So the game that I did play in the foursomes with Henrik, we played great tee-to-green and then we just got severely unlucky.

And then in the singles, I wasn't playing my A Game and Zach Johnson holed the world. I don't think I played enough to really have made it make an impact on me personally. I don't know about the other guys, but I'd love the chance obviously to make the team and play again next year.

Q. Just on this week. Does it feel different, coming in defending, what there's a sort of twin focus? Do you feel maybe under the radar, that sort of thing; that it's got a different feel to where you've defended in the past?
MATT FITZPATRICK: A little bit, yeah. This is also my first time defending on the same golf course, as well, to be honest. It's kind of exciting in a way. But yeah, you're right, obviously the main focus is Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose and Sergio trying to win The Race to Dubai.

That will take the main focus, there's no doubt about that. Like you say, it's nice to sort of probably come in under the radar, and I feel like I'm playing quite nicely, so you never know.

MICHAEL GIBBONS: We wish you luck. Thank you for joining us.

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