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January 19, 2018

Tommy Fleetwood

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Q. How was it playing in that group today?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Well, it was always going to be great no matter what happened. I wasn't quite on it today, so it was a bit more of an effort for me. Dustin shot the most stress-free 64 you'll ever see and Rory just shot the most stress-free 66 you'll ever see. Those two played great. I was very happy to get in today, sort of from the turn, I didn't play that great and so I was kind of hanging on.

Q. Missed a few putts out there.
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Well, it always looks that way, when you have so many chances. On the front nine, I played really well and I had quite a lot of chances. 10 and 11 didn't play the holes very well, and 12, in-between clubs off the tee and it was like, just kind of needed to sort of calm things down a bit and I was happy tapping those in for par. Pleased to see that one go in.

Q. 16, 17, talk us through those.
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, 16, you always love a horseshoe. It would have been nice to go bogey-free again. It was kind of coming -- I was playing 16, hit a terrible tee shot.

17, it just felt like you could just touch that putt and it would go in, after having Happy Birthday sang to me twice, I think the moment was made.

Q. What are the plans for this evening?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: I honestly don't know yet. I think it's my first birthday with a son, so I think that will be quite good for me.

Q. What's it like to play with a couple of gorillas like that?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: I said yesterday, I think however long my career is, I'll struggle to get a better three-ball in my life. It was always going to be enjoyable.

Yeah, they shot the most stress-free 64 and 66's you'll ever see. For me, it was a bit more stressful for me but I really holed out well, so I just kept going. To finish, always feels nice.

Q. How comfortable are you at being European Tour No. 1? That is a big honour and a job well done. But to stride the fairways with these great players, do you puff your chest out being European No. 1?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: It's a great honour and it's a great accomplishment to have in my career. The unfortunate thing is that nobody cares right now. When you're playing out there, nobody cares what you did last year. You've got to get on with it and you have to keep moving forward.

So for me, lovely to have accomplished it and having your name announced on the first tee, Defending Champion, and Race to Dubai Champion is something I'll enjoy for a year and hopefully I would love to do it again.

Q. It's always a challenge, isn't it, to back up a really good opening round, and you certainly did that and nice way to spend your birthday.
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, I played really well the front nine. I was very in control of my ball, a couple dodgy ones, but in general played really well. The back nine was a bit more of a struggle. Didn't put it in play enough off the tee and I was never very close, really.

So it was definitely tough on the back nine, one of them where you have to stay patient, you're playing with two guys that are making a lot of birdies and having a lot of chances.

Q. The birdie on 17?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: I think the moment was made before that putt, I had Happy Birthday sang to me twice, so it was one of them occasions.

Q. And you then backed it up with a birdie, birdie finish and given yourself, I would have thought, realistic terms, if someone said, if we offered you this halfway for the title defence, you'd have taken it.
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, of course. You can't win the tournament after two days. You can only play yourself out of it. Two shots behind, still no time to look at leaderboards just yet but it's nice to know where you stand.

And especially that back nine today was more just be patient, stay in it. I holed out really well. I held a lot of 4- or 5-footers, and yeah, the finish has put me that little bit closer on the weekend, and tomorrow, Saturday, is always an important day to stay in it and try and make a move. Just got to keep doing the right things.

Q. At least you have a late start so you can celebrate tonight.
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: I don't think there will be that much celebrating going on. Celebrate with some water, I think.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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