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January 16, 2018

Tommy Fleetwood

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

STEVE TODD: Many thanks for joining us.


STEVE TODD: We'll touch upon your title defence in a moment, but we'd like to start the new year with a special surprise for you.

So you should probably know, outside the back of the room we've got a couple of special guests. Like to invite Keith Pelley and David Howell to come forward please and they can reveal all. Tommy, you've probably noticed we've got a nice trophy here.

Keith, if you'd like to explain a little bit more.

KEITH PELLEY: Sure. Tommy and I were supposed to have dinner last night but I cancelled on him.

TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Turned me down.

KEITH PELLEY: I said I will make sure that I come to your news conference, so I'm being true to my word on that.

What a year Tommy has had and it is a complete honour and we are so proud of his accomplishment, and to award him today with the Seve Ballesteros Award, which is given to the players player award, voted by the players.

So it is a real testament to the turnaround and incredible season that he had last year. In 2016, I think you were 188th in the world, coming into Abu Dhabi last year. He was the 100th ranked player. He now stands at 18. He obviously won here last year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC, and went on to win the HNA Open de France.

He showed his incredible ability to play match play last week when he won his three matches at the EurAsia Cup, and to hopefully give you this award in the honour of the great Seve Ballesteros is icing on the cake for what was just something that was incredible, and I know that you will be back in France in the summer to defend the HNA Open de France, but there's a pretty good chance you might be in France in the fall for some other event, as well.

So on behalf of everyone at The European Tour, thank you. I know Tommy is no doubt a treat for the media but from an administrative perspective, I can tell you on behalf of all our staff, it is wonderful that your rise has happened like this and we couldn't be happier, and you are a real treat and a real gem for The European Tour. So congratulations.

TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Thanks, Keith. Wow.

STEVE TODD: David, if I could just ask you as Tournament Chairman --

DAVID HOWELL: Should we give it to him?

KEITH PELLEY: David is obviously the Tournament Chairman of our Tournament Committee. David has an injury but the commitment that he has shown to the Tour over the years has been terrific, and to come in, we have a meeting tonight. We have a Tournament Committee meeting tonight, and for him to fly all the way overnight and then he's flying right back, shows his commitment, and on behalf of the players, say a couple words on the players player award to Mr. Fleetwood.

DAVID HOWELL: Tommy, congratulations, very well deserved. I voted for you (laughter). I'm partly responsible. But I think we first played, what was your first year?

TOMMY FLEETWOOD: I remember it, because we played, first year was Leopard Creek, so that would have been late 2010 or 2011.

DAVID HOWELL: So you had just come off The Challenge Tour and I remember thinking, boy, this lad has a lot of talent. I think you were injured and you had to withdraw.

TOMMY FLEETWOOD: I remember you holing everything in the practise round.

DAVID HOWELL: To see you come out with that potential; there's so many talented players out here, but watching you put it all together over the years. It's not all been plane sailing, but I think I can speak for all the players: Watching the diligent way you've gone about being a professional golfer, so disciplined, dedicated and driven, and it's just very fitting that you should go on, have the amazing year that you had last year and we're proud of you.

The European Tour's proud to be a tour that allows people to play and rise to the top of the game; you've done that mainly on The European Tour. You've become a star of world golf. You're a great character for the game and it's with pride that we have you as a European Tour Member. Congratulations, it's very well deserved.


STEVE TODD: We'll keep the trophy there. I think it would be nice to hear a few words from you, obviously to win any award is a big achievement, but one that's voted by your peers is always very special.

TOMMY FLEETWOOD: It's actually made me the most emotional out of all of them. Yeah, I think just that award in particular, having it voted for by the players, I think for any of us, it's just -- I mean, it is like an individual achievement, like accumulative of what you did the year before.

But just to have the people that -- for me, starting out on Tour, there's still so many guys that when I come out I was looking up to and you watch people on the range and you try to learn from them. I've made a lot of friends, and I think for people to vote for me as the Player of the Year is just, yeah, it's something else, that, really. It's different to anything I've achieved before. It's a bit, yeah, very flattering, very humbling, really.

STEVE TODD: Obviously all started here last year, that terrific victory. Just take us back a little bit, what that meant to you, and also your thoughts on your title defence this week and your preparations for this year as a whole.

TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, I mean, sort of starting the year in a very different place last year. Said it a few times that it was kind of a clean slate for me. I had worked really hard sort of halfway, half of the year before, and then by the time I got to this event, the goals for the year were just, I wanted to win a tournament again and pretty much anything other than that was kind of a bonus.

Yeah, I won last year and it kind of came, it did come out of nowhere. I haven't done much before over the winter, and it was a course where I had not had much success on and found myself up there on the last day. It just kind of took us all a little bit by surprise, and it was a massive accumulation of so much hard work and coming back and getting my game back together; and it was, yeah, just so many sort of great memories from that week, and it clearly started a great run for me throughout the year.

I think, yeah, I think I owe a lot to the tournament and the way I played. Obviously Dustin Johnson was coming down the stretch, as well last year, but I think it gave me a lot of confidence to move on in the year and then for whatever else I achieved.

STEVE TODD: Obviously EurAsia Cup last week, but just talk a little bit about the preparations for this year and how things are a little bit different.

TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, like again, starting the year with a lot more expectation. I'm in a much different place World Ranking-wise, so then the goals and sort of making improvements become more difficult. You have to put a lot more extra work in to get smaller gains, but I'm very lucky with the people I have around me.

Sort of over winter, we looked back, what was good, what wasn't so good, and how you want to improve. We all talked about that. I'm very lucky with the people I have around me. I've now got extra support this year, I'm now a Zurich Ambassador for the year to be with such a great company, a company that's been in the game of golf for a long time, so I'm looking forward to that.

Generally, the goals, I want more of the same. It's easy to pick out tournaments that you want to win, and it's easy to say, oh, I want to win a major, I want to compete in the majors and I want to make The Ryder Cup Team but you have to remember to just keep progressing. I know how easy it is to go off-track. I know what it takes to sort of stay on the right track and I know I'm surrounded by people that are going to keep me going that way, really.

Q. Wonder what beating Dustin down the stretch did, when you see what he did between here and the Masters last year, and again in Hawai'i, wonder whether you reflect on that and think this that's the moment you realised you could compete.
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Any time you are in contention on a Sunday, you generally learn something about yourself. It shouldn't matter who you are up against but it kind of does in a way.

So I ended up -- I think this event and México, even though I didn't win, I had sort of nine holes on that back nine, and especially with about four or five holes to play, all of a sudden I had a chance to win a WGC. And I kept going, felt fine, felt confident in myself. Playing this week last year, México again, my good golf, my best golf stood up against the best players in the world.

So I think just that, when those sort of moments happen, that's what gives you the confidence. It's all right sort of getting up there and sometimes you can win or get away with it. But it's more how you feel inside yourself and it's watching your good golf actually come out after four days and be up there with the best players in the world.

Q. You just said that you reviewed last year and what you had done well and what you had not done well. What didn't you do well last year?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Well, good question. I think it was more what we could do better. I think the difficult part is that last year, I made so many big strides from where I was, and you have to keep in perspective that the strides aren't going to keep getting that big. So it's more you have to look at -- you just have to look at ways to improve.

So for me, the parts of my game that I want to improve, I've always drove the ball well. I think one of the things that I kind of did last year was I wanted to work on a driver because Nike stopped making equipment.

So I still have Nike irons in the bag, but eventually these things are going to have to phase-out, and you have to know when to do that at the right time and doing it the right way. Clearly my driver and iron play are my biggest strengths.

Game-wise, increasing, improving my short game all the time, wedge play, putting. Just keep gradually improving them, and then, the margins are so small, tiny gains are going to make a big difference. It's more just looking at it that way and where you can -- I have a baby now and a wife and a family at home, so time management becomes so much more important.

So it's not like I'm going to spend 12 hours a day working on my game and improving it that way. You have to work smarter and then figure out the ways to do it that way.

Q. On that front, will you play as much this year as you did last year? Because you seemed to play a lot of golf last year.
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, I think I played less than I actually have done the last few years. I had that stretch in the middle where having the baby, I had six or seven weeks off or whatever it was.

This year, I'll be playing two schedules and be playing a bit more on the PGA TOUR as well. Schedule is set out. I can't remember how many it is I'll play. Either family will travel or I'll be home, so we won't have sort of too much time away because it's just not something that I'm that keen on. My family comes first and that's it, really, so I'll make sure I get the timing right.

Q. You alluded to it, but I was going to ask you about the equipment. I know you had a busy off-season with several things. When are you going to take that decision when did you try out anything during this period, off-season period?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: I didn't really try anything. I'm kind of -- I have tried stuff and I will sort of constantly do it when timings are right. I'll only change if I feel 100 per cent comfortable with what it is, and if I feel it's working right. At the end of the day, your golf is the most important thing, and it's difficult.

I'm not a tinkerer. I'm not a changer. I've had those irons for a long time but I will eventually, once I find something, but it will just be -- there's no timeframe on it. There's no idea how I'll do it or when I'll do it. I'll just keep trying things sort of constantly every other -- maybe Mondays at events or something and if it's great, brilliant, I'll put it in and try it, and if not, then it doesn't really matter. I'll just keep going.

Q. The expectation you set at the start of this tournament last year, and the expectations this year are a lot different. Can you give us an idea of the mind-set that you had coming into this tournament last year, and this year, apart from the expectations?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Last year, I do remember it clearly. I was playing well like I knew my game was good, but it was just play golf and see how we can do. You still try your best and you're still going to push yourself, but it was kind of, whatever happens, happens. It's not we're going to keep trying to improve; we had goals. I think one of my goals was to get into the Masters for this year, so at the end of the year, I wanted to get my letter, my invitation, which I did get, but I got one earlier, as well.

But things like that; it was just a long timeframe and it was still all a massive process of getting better. I think it's important to keep that; the better you get, the more eyes are on you, the more your expectations go up, the more you want to win every week, and it's important to remember what got you to this point in the first place and try not to put too much pressure on yourself. We all have our expectations and we all want to do great but you just put the work in and you have to trust what you do and it's going to work.

Q. On the expectation theme, have you talked to any other players about how they deal with it? What's the hardest thing about it?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, good point. I haven't really. I just think the hardest thing about it is the better you get and the higher your expectations get, the less leeway you give yourself when you don't play very well, and it can get frustrating very easily.

You might not play well one week. I mean, nobody is going to make the cut every week. You know, Tiger did it for a long period but it doesn't really happen. So you've just got to be careful that you just take it in your stride and you realise that that's the game of golf and you know that you're doing the right things to move forward.

I feel like I have a good mind-set about it. Like I said, I feel like I do the right things all the time and I do think that I put the hours in and I do the right things to make me a better player all the time and when you go out and play golf, you just have to go out and play golf and trust that that is -- you've done the work, and if it doesn't go right, you have to go on to next week and do it.

So it's more that, but definitely it's a different -- last year, sort of the last eight events, when I was kind of sort of in the spotlight for eight constant weeks, that was a new experience, and I had something to aim for that I had never aimed for before in my life. So welcome new challenges and new experiences. We'll see how we go.

Q. After these two weeks, what will you play in before the Masters?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Two weeks off and then I'll play L.A., Honda, the two WGCs and Bay Hill I think. I think that is my schedule and then I think that's getting towards the Masters then.

Q. Obviously a lot of people, especially you, I suspect, were very pleased at the way you played last week. What's the secret of match-play golf?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: I found it -- do you know, I found it really sort of difficult last week. I was the most nervous I had been in a bit with it being a team event. I had the Carlsberg of partners the first two days that, I mean, let's face it, I had two of the good ones.

And the singles, it was a great experience because we all wanted to, and I can only speak for myself obviously but I'm sure the guys felt the same. We all the wanted to win so badly, especially for Thomas and for the Tour. You can get carried away with that, and 18 holes feels like such a short period of time when you have that to beat a player. Doesn't matter who it is.

Generally it was just a great experience for me. I loved playing with Paul and I loved playing with Henrik. They were both great. They were just great to be on the golf course with. I had a really good time.

And I know I won three points, but my game still wasn't quite there. I didn't really hit it off the tee how I wanted to, so there was things that I can look on to improve. But the whole thing as in a team atmosphere, the team room, being out on the course as a team, it was great stuff. And the feeling of winning as a team with your teammates was brilliant. I really, really enjoyed it.

Q. Can you tell us what you feel Thomas brought to the team room that helped you get that result in the end?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: I think he has a great way about him as a captain. He's very sort of deliberate and controlled. When he speaks, he's got a great amount of compassion but motivation at the same time.

For us, it was a pleasure to play for him. I thought he did a great job and he sort of, you know, he had a very deliberate and strong way about him. He's going to do a great job in September, so whoever the team is, I think we have full faith in our captain to do the right job.

STEVE TODD: Congratulations on the award. Good luck with your title defence this week.

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