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January 21, 2018

Tommy Fleetwood

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

STEVE TODD: Tommy, here we are again, 12 months on, very hard-fought victory out there today, but just try and sum up the feelings of sitting next to that trophy once more.

TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, I was just saying sort of from the start of the week, I've never defended. I've never come to a tournament as defending champion before.

It's a really strange feeling because you feel quite possessive over your trophy and you don't really want to give it back. So that's always been in the back of my mind this week.

Luckily enough, I was playing well and I had a chance to win, and yeah, the back nine was a very special nine holes. Yeah, it's it's a very, very nice feeling coming back.

STEVE TODD: This week from the Seve award, your birthday, now this trophy, life's pretty good at the moment.

TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, sort of the biggest thing for us after last year, I had had the year of my life by a long, long way on the course. And everything we've done, everything we've talked about, sort of that month off was to make sure that we kept progressing, kept improving.

We sort of really wanted to look at the year like, you know, if Justin Rose had shot level par on that back nine on Sunday in The Race to Dubai, then I wouldn't have had The Race to Dubai tournament.

So it was sort of important to look at it that way; that maybe try and prove as if you were hurt and you had not had that whole euphoria of achieving something amazing in your career. So all the practise has been very good. Prepared well last week. Had a great week in Malaysia, and then to sort of validate your position of Race to Dubai Champion or Player of the Year so early on is really sort of nice and satisfying in a way.

STEVE TODD: Back to the top of The Race to Dubai, as well.

TOMMY FLEETWOOD: That's more like it.

Q. Rory asked you to blow the candle and wish for -- was this on the wish list?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: No, it wasn't, actually. I thought I'd use my wishes more wisely and try and take care of it myself this week.

From the start of the week, any time you come to a tournament, you always want to be there on a Sunday. You sort of arrive on a Monday or a Tuesday and come Sunday afternoon on the back nine, you want to be in with a chance of winning. Doesn't matter what tournament it is. This happens to be a very big one about it felt like a special one to me this week, being defending champion.

Yeah, to have it for another year to have that sort of on the mantelpiece at home again is just really, really brilliant.

Q. What does it feel like to hear what Rory said about you? I'm assuming that you have heard?

Q. Well, he described --
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Please tell me, though (laughter).

Q. He said it was very impressive; to shoot 6-under was incredible in those conditions, bodes very well for his career, bodes well for us in Europe, and he couldn't really praise you highly enough.
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: That's very kind (laughter). I had such a good time the first two days playing with Rory and Dustin are potentially the two best players of our generation, potentially.

So having that as a three-ball, it was great. Although I still had my competitive fires going and I wanted to beat them. But yeah, any time you sort of play with the best players in the world is where you want to be, and whether you see yourself there or not, you want to be competing with them.

And I want to go places in the game. So to have your peers talk about you like that, Rory, obviously has done it all in the game. So having people talk about you like that is very nice.

Q. When you see Ross make a start like he did, do you start thinking the trophy is slipping away, and does it sort of change the way that you go about your stuff?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Well, it was slipping away, score-wise. But the conditions were way too tough today to even bother about other people. As soon as you took your eye off the game, you'd have got punished today.

And I felt okay all day. I never felt like I didn't have a chance. Maybe if I miss that putt on 8, that short one, after playing the hole great, and maybe after -- if 10, if I had not hold that putt on 10 and I didn't get up-and-down on 11 after a poor shot, things like that are momentum shifters and they keep you going.

Those two holes aside, then I probably would have been out of the tournament. So those were important, and then I kind of rode the wave of getting a few putts to drop, really.

Q. Given the conditions and what was on the line, would you say this was the best nine that you have played in your professional career? And also, secondly, how did you reset after the ninth hole? Did you say something to yourself?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, I think without sort of going over tournaments in my head or rounds of golf, I think that back nine will definitely be at the top of the list. It's funny, because when you're playing, you're sort of so in the moment, you're not thinking about how well you're playing or what your score is.

I wouldn't have known I shot 30 on the back nine when I came in. And we didn't have to reset, really. I was playing really well. I was hitting really good shots in. I played 8 lovely. I played 9 lovely and I felt fine. It was just a case of: Scoring was tough, and we had to keep going. It was sort of shot after shot.

Again, when conditions are that tough and that windy, it really actually helps you focus on each shot because there's never any gimmie shots.

The two days before was way easier to look ahead. Flat calm, certain holes were really good birdie chances and you can end up thinking that way. But today it just didn't give you that opportunity because it was playing so difficult.

Q. Rory's been complimentary about you, and you played with him the first two days. What did you see in him that you think he might do this year?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: He looked great. Swung it great. He hit it really nicely. Had control of his ball. I think as golfers, whenever you've had a long period off, there's always, you know, you always sort of plan for a bit of rust. Not necessarily how you hit it, but just how you go about playing golf.

Playing golf is a whole different skill in itself. I thought he looked great. I think he'll win more than once this year, easily. I think he looks really well. Yeah, it was good playing with him.

Q. Given the score you had at Carnoustie last year in the Dunhill Links, how much are you looking forward to going to Carnoustie for an Open Championship? Apologise for the Scottish question (laughter). And is Gullane likely to figure in your preparation for that, as well, for The Scottish Open?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, we're definitely going to play Scotland this year. Sort of we can look ahead that far and know that I have two weeks in Scotland that time of the year.

Yeah, Carnoustie is a course that I like. I've had a lot of good scores. To be fair, 63; I hit it in a couple of spots that are, you know, I probably wouldn't have broke 70 maybe in The Open, the way they set it up.

I do like the course and I like how the holes set up. We'll see where my game is at at that time, or where we are, sort of figuring in the world of golf. Last year at The Open was kind of the biggest sort of euphoria I've ever had at a tournament, which was amazing. And then I thought, you know, honestly, that second round was a better round than today to make the cut, nearly.

But yeah, we'll see when The Open comes around how we're feeling, but it's a course that I've shot some good scores around, and yeah, I'm sure I'll enjoy it.

STEVE TODD: Well, Tommy, thanks for joining us. Congratulations again.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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