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November 13, 2018
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
NEIL AHERN: Welcome back to the DP World Tour Championship. The hunted has become the hunter this week. How different is it coming into this tournament, coming in second place in The Race to Dubai, as opposed to first?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yes, it's different. The biggest difference is it's not in my hands.
It's great. It's amazing going to this last event, you really don't think about things like this when you're playing week-in, week-out. But if you think this time a year ago, The Race to Dubai finish started off, literally going to Hong Kong, you think of all the holes that you play and the tournaments that you play throughout the year; and to have reached the final event again, and have a chance at winning The Race to Dubai, hey, it shows that you've done a lot of good things and you've played a lot of good golf.
It's just great to have that excitement surrounding the event again, it really is. You've come this far and to have a chance, as little as it is, and it's not a big chance and it's not in my hands at all, but you know it's there and you're teeing off on Thursday with a chance at winning the biggest prize of the year.
NEIL AHERN: Can you tell us about the emotional roller coaster of last year and what Frankie might be going through this week?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, it's tough. It was a lot closer last year and I was nervous on Thursday. Sort of never experienced anything like that playing for a year-long event. I was nervous Thursday. Then changed for Friday, Saturday, and then Sunday again. It just -- I think it showed last year, I kind of stumbled over the line but got over the line.
Justin, at the same time, on the form of his life and he's one of the best golfers of our generation and it showed how hard it is to get over that line. I mean, a tournaments's hard enough when it's four days, but The Race to Dubai, when it's a year long and now all of a sudden you have nine holes to play and that's what the year comes down to, it's a very, very different feeling and very difficult.
And hopefully, come the back nine on Sunday this year, I have a chance and I have a great week and I'm playing well, and I can give Frank something to think about. But just knowing that you have a chance and you're in a tournament to win it; I am kind of chasing and it's a nice kind of -- it's a lot of freedom in that.
Q. You touched on it earlier on. Can you describe how tough a task it is, knowing that, a, you have to win, and b, Frankie can still deny you by finishing in the top 5, anyway? How tough a task, how tall an order is it?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Well, very, isn't it. Look, I'd like to have won more this year, after winning the like the first event of the year. It would be nice if this is one that I'd won.
That's all I can focus on, really. The math is pretty clear. It's in Frank's hands, but I'll be playing, it's another week, another start, where I'm hopefully going to be up there on Sunday. Just focus on this tournament. Focus on what we have to do to win, and move on from there.
It's a massively tall order, but at the same time, if we had teed off on the first hole in Hong Kong last year, which is the first event of the year and they said, look, you need to last the tournament -- if you actually read out the full scenario, who it would be at the end of the year, I'm pretty sure you'd say, yeah, okay, I'll give it a go from there on in.
If you look at it in that perspective, then you'll take it and do your best.
Q. I've heard a rumor that you and Frankie are apparently quite good friends.
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Just a rumor.
Q. Has there been any banter this week between you, and will you be dining together or is it strictly business?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: There was a little bit actually last week, but it was the first time I had really spoke about it. I think all of a sudden it's came down to just us two that can win it, and those are the only two scenarios.
We've literally never mentioned it until last week and then made a couple of jokes about it. It's funny, like he'll say, like it's in my hands, and I'll say it's in his. That's just how it will be.
It's a very good thing that we'll be teeing off on Thursday together and sort of see that we have a chance. Great for us as friends. You know you're going out there with sort of the person that you're closest with on Tour, trying to win the biggest prize that we play for.
So it's a nice -- it's a nice thing, that, and like I say, if it doesn't work out for me, I couldn't be happier for him for what he's achieved this year.
Q. You seem to be in a really relaxed mind-set at the moment, but on Thursday, is your game plan to be more on the offensive compared to last year and try and leap from the front in an aggressive manner and put a stamp on it, or are you going to stick with the same, see how it goes, sort of frame of mind?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Last year, yeah, last year, I mean, honestly, I didn't really do a great job of sort of leading and handling it, and I think there was a massive focus on Race to Dubai.
This year, I could concentrate on the tournament because I need to win the tournament, so I can literally just concentrate on that and what we need to do to win that.
At the end of the day, to win this event, the scoring is normally pretty low, and the course is nice. You've still got to play. You have to make plenty of birdies to win.
So I think, yeah, I'll try and be as aggressive as I can, but in a way that, you know, I'm not going to play really stupid and then let myself in for 15 bogeys but 25 birdies. That's not going to get it done.
But I'm going to, I'll play to win and see where that ends up. Yeah, there's definitely an element -- there's a bigger element of freedom because that's just the way it is. It's sort of, I can't really -- you know, unless I had a three-shot lead going into the back nine on Sunday, I can't really lose anything. I either win or I don't, and that's pretty black and white this week.
Q. How do you compare last year, black and white, when you had more individual success, where this year you've actually been really consistent? Is that a tough thing to reconcile in your head, when you have a year like this versus last?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, because this year, a lot of times this year -- I've played two tours this year for the first time. There's been a lot of times this year where I've been one round of golf away from winning, and I've just too many times, I have a round that should be level par; I've shot 4- or 5-over and that's cost me.
So on a whole, I've played much better golf this year, for sure, and I've been way, way more consistent, but I've always just fallen short for one round or a stretch of holes.
So going forward, next year, which we've already started looking at, that is definitely a part of my game I need to improve if I want to win more.
Consistency is great, but it's difficult to see what's better: Is it better winning three times or is it better finishing top ten throughout the year? I'm sure I'll probably pick winning trophies, and I wish I would have won more than I did, but majors have been a lot more consistent.
I think apart from the PGA, either on Saturday or Sunday, I was within the last two or three groups within the majors. So I've been in contention a lot more and I've learnt a lot more about myself, and I've played a lot of different courses and I've played in the best fields pretty much every week.
It's been tough. It's been tough grafting. I mean, really, when you're doing that much when you're playing tournaments, is it realistic to think you're going to do as much and you're going to play as well.
I think this year for sure has been better than last year. I haven't won as much, but it's been wetter. I said it a couple times when I finished last year: No. 1 thing was trying to kick on.
So many things have improved this year. I have a PGA TOUR card for the first time; got to the final event this year. I've still got a chance of winning The Race to Dubai, doing better in majors and World Ranking has gone up. I've kind of kicked on like I've wanted to, but there's still sort of a lot more that I can do better.
Q. Do you believe in coincidence, because you won in Abu Dhabi in 2017, came to this week in contention. You won again in Abu Dhabi this year, came to this week in contention. Do you believe in that? And can you just talk about how, should I say, satisfying, that given the year that you had in 2016, and then when you did in 2017, and to maintain it in 2018?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, the coincidence thing, I'm not sure. I mean, it would be nice if they all came together again. It would be very nice, and the Middle East has been very kind to me for the last couple of years. I think it's been the result of a lot of hard work and a lot of good golf.
Yeah, when you look at the transition of 2016, where I was to then winning The Race to Dubai in 2017, which was never on the agenda ever, to then this year where I've kicked on and I have a chance again, it's very satisfying when you put in a lot of work and it pays off.
Because so many times, so often in this game, there's guys that -- I mean, there's people that don't do the work and they are immensely talented, but there's people that do do the work and they don't get the rewards that maybe they deserve, and it's not all fair and it's not always the way it works out.
But I've been very lucky that hard work has paid off. I've done the right things. I've made good decisions and I've got good people around me. We've pressed on. I mean, we are -- it's very satisfying that it's worked out, but we're still nowhere near satisfied with sort of where we are as a golfer and where we are.
We'd like to keep pressing on and keep trying to reach whatever -- I don't know what my potential is, but we're still going to keep pressing on for it.
At the moment, we are on a very upward curve and hopefully that can keep going that way. Over the course are your career, you're going to have up-and-downs, and at the moment, it's on a nice rise, so we'd like to keep that going.
Q. You just mentioned the curve of greatness, what it costs to reach it. Can you talk a little about the journey, what you've enjoyed the most?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: I think the best bit about the journey is probably the -- I mean, you never know what's going to happen on a daily basis, really, and the fact that you can turn up one day and play terrible, or you can turn up the next and play great, I think is something that's frustrating, but at the same time very enjoyable. It's kind of the unknown.
And just the constant striving to get better. That's just what we all work for. That's why you see everybody out there each day practising their hardest, and like I say, when you -- it doesn't happen for some people.
Like some people can go through struggles and still try and work really hard and they are not getting out of it what they want and what they deserve, and sometimes you do. But that's just that's the game. That's the nature of sport and life, I guess. You have to accept that and keep going.
And everybody out here, you have a massive respect for the guys that are working hard and trying to achieve something. I know it's something that I'm very appreciative that I am a part of still.
Q. Slightly random question, but just wondering will you be paying the $19.99 to watch Tiger versus fill next week? If so, why, or if not, why not?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: No, I won't be paying it (laughter). I'll be in Hong Kong.
Is it next week?
Q. Next Friday.
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Next Friday. See, it's probably not good timing. I'll be in Hong Kong. Timing won't be great. I'll check on the results.
Q. If you were at home, would you have paid to watch it?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: No, I wouldn't have paid then, either. But I'd have found out how he's gone and then seen (laughing).
Q. I thought Scottish people were tight. (Laughter).
Bradley would like to know what was the highlight of your year, other than The Ryder Cup.
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: The final round of the U.S. Open would have been the biggest highlight for me, other than The Ryder Cup. Didn't quite work out how I wanted it to, but it was a very special day and a very special round of golf. It would be very hard to beat that one.
Q. Brandon here wanted to know: What's your favourite Ryder Cup story away from the golf, away from the course?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Can't tell my favourite (laughter).
Favourite story, favourite story away from the course -- there's a few that I can't spill the beans on. Away from the course -- I'm trying to think of like an acceptable one. There was about four or five of us that sort of -- probably the first morning, Tuesday morning, I think -- I'll pick this one and it's probably a very boring one.
But it was -- you have ideas how big The Ryder Cup is and how special it is and how well organised it was, and the first morning, got in the car, and my driver couldn't get out of Versailles. Like he couldn't find his way out. I wasn't in the car -- was I in the car with Thomas? No, I was in the car with someone else. But like literally, like we were lost. Couldn't get to The Ryder Cup and it's my first one.
Luckily I'm kind of relaxed, but I think we got there, and about three or four of them had got lost. There were three or four drivers which none of them knew how to get to the golf course which I found quite hilarious. I don't know if Thomas was in one of those cars, but probably wouldn't have gone sort of as smoothly for his driver than mine (laughter).
NEIL AHERN: On that note, Tommy, thank very much and best of luck this week.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports