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January 15, 2019

Tommy Fleetwood

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

BRIONY CARLYON: Thank you, everyone. I'm delighted to welcome back our defending champion, Tommy Fleetwood, to the Abu Dhabi HSBC championship Presented by EGA.


BRIONY CARLYON: Thanks for being with us here today, Tommy.

This must be a course that you love, an event that you love, a two-time winner back-to-back. What are you going to bring into this week to look to take to a third title here?

TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Well, yeah, I've said it before, the course kind of battered me for a few years. I missed -- I don't know what year this has been in, I've only missed four or five cuts around here. Had two years where I've won but overall, the course is, has always been a very fair test.

This is a course where if you play well, you can do well and if you don't, you kind of struggle. Just so happens the last two years, I played really well, kind of like tee-to-greened it to death in a way. I've played so well that, you know, it was hard. I made very little bogeys over two years, and ultimately that's ended up in me winning a couple times.

But again, it's not really to say that this year will be the same. The rough is a little bit thicker this year. It's a slightly different test.

Yeah, you've got to be on your game.

BRIONY CARLYON: It's a new year, as well, and you've had some time here in the Middle East over the last few weeks practising, but does that give you an opportunity to try new things or have a look at maybe chaining things up?

TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, I always kind of like the new year. I think Hong Kong is always one of my favorite events for the sheer fact that there's like so many people.

It's a fresh start for everybody. So there's guys there that have had a poor year and it's the same as this year. People don't play for a while, or whether people had a bad 2018 or an amazing one, they smart 2019 all the same and everybody always finds a new beginning.

There's always things that people are working on. Everybody is always trying to reinvent themselves most of the time. Yeah, there's a lot of, there's plenty of equipment changes, caddie changes, swing changes. There's a lot going on by the time you get to this point of the year.

Q. How much has your life changed since Ryder Cup? At home did you get recognized a lot more and asked for pictures and things like that?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, The Ryder Cup, I think is that one event where like non-golf fans kind of watch it. It's sort of the biggest sporting occasion at the time.

I've definitely had more recognition and people notice me more. It's been very noticeably different, at home and -- and to a certain extent, around the world a little bit but particularly at home is -- I'm by no means like David Beckham, but I get recognized a little bit more now.

Q. Did I read somewhere, you have gone down the route of changing your irons, and if so, that's actually quite a big step for you, isn't it, given the love affair with the previous one.
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, I've been trying -- I've been trying things for a long time now. I spent quite a bit of time in San Diego last year, trying all different manufacturers. You don't really get the chance throughout the year, and then you get the chance again as the year ends, but I had a pretty dry spell of not playing golf, so the only time to test is now, really. I had a week of practise last week, and trying everything we can.

The problem with testing is we play such a busy schedule, and even if you're at home and you play, it's not the same as being at a tournament. I've got a new driver this week. I've got new irons, which I guess is the one that everybody's seen.

But eventually, you have to try them in a tournament, otherwise it means nothing. Literally, going on a course is the next step, trying everything on the range. Next week, Thursday could be a completely different scenario. The Nikes could be in or something else could be in.

At some point, I need a more long-term solution. If you think about it, my career, I've had the same set of clubs for six, seven years-ish. Like I need to look at the next kind of, you know, that period of time.

So I need to get it fixed. You just have to, you know, you have to put them on the golf course. It's the same with a golf ball or driver or a putter or anything. You just have to try them and we'll see how it goes, really.

Q. Given that you had such a consistent and great year last year, were you a little disappointed that you just won once in the season? And what are you trying to do differently or to rectify that in 2019?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, I was disappointed, which is a strange thing to say, really, because again, I had such an amazing year and I was doing different things. I played a lot in America last year. That was my first full year, and there's different challenges. Played two team events last year.

So it was a very different year, and I kind of solidified my place in the Top-10, 15, 20 in the world, which was big because I had made a rapid climb, but that's all well and good. You've got to keep going and keep improving, and it get much harder to stay there.

Only winning once, after winning straight off was disappointing, but I think at the same time, given the good golf I played, just shows how hard and difficult it is to win. It's not a reflection on me doing things wrong. It just says it's very difficult to win.

I came close. Just didn't do it. But at the end of every year, you sit down and you look at how you can improve. That's what we all did, everybody that I work with. We're just going to go along that path of trying to get better, whatever that -- whatever the state of my game is or whatever I need to improve. That's where our main focus will be. You know, in the end, hopefully that results in wins, but again, coming back to this event now that I've won twice, not once have I sort of came first event of the year and thought, oh, I should win this or I'm going to win this.

It's like you play with confidence but with sort of an ease of expectation on yourself because it's very early on in the year, and that's gone well. So I'm just trying to look at my game and improve and think about what I want to be as a player, and hopefully that results in some wins.

Q. Is there any stat that you looked at the end of the year that you really want to improve this year?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: The wins. I think inside 160 yards, my sort of approach play, I didn't really hit it close enough. So for whatever reason that was, whether I played a little bit safe or I didn't -- you know, my short irons weren't quite sharp enough. That's one that stood out.

You know, there's the obvious ones. Like you can always chip it closer or you can putt a little better or you can hole more putts. For me, definitely inside 160 yards is where I would like to improve over the next few weeks and months.

Q. Will you putt with the flag in?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yes and no. Again, just try it out. It's a difficult one. I don't really have any science to it or anything like that. I think it will just be -- I know that like there's lip-outs that you can have that can catch the pin that can catch friction of the pin that go in when they might have a chance of missing. But you can also hit the pin dead-centre and it can jar out. I don't really know if there's a formula for it. Until we've tried it, we won't know.

Q. Could you imagine doing it from six feet or anything like that?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, I think we'll look at putts. It will probably be something like for the first two or three tournaments, maybe you and your caddie will maybe have a discussion about it or what you feel like.

It's a little bit odd, isn't it. But you know, we putt on a putting green. Grew up as a kid just putting with the pin in it and scoot it out. Need a little scoop now at the bottom of the pins now. It will make it more realistic. Honestly it's going to be a trial and error thing. I won't have any input on what's best or not. I'll just see, it might be the case after one tournament, I might just take the pin out or I might say, leave it in every time.

Q. No qualms that it looks weird?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: No, not really. It is a little bit odd, isn't it, but I think once you get your head around it, it's not really a big deal.

Q. Just going back to the irons, do you feel -- how do you expect it to go this week? Do you feel like you've reached that point where you've got a long-term solution, and also, any other changes, either clubs or otherwise?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, I think they are very close. The thing about testing clubs is that we have all the technology in the world at the moment, so you can stand on the range and you can make any number that you want to happen. That's what these guys do, every day of their lives.

But when you get out on the golf course, it's a completely different story. So I've played a Pro-Am and I've played a practise round with them, and we'll see.

I'm glad that I'm sort of making these steps of going out on a golf course with them, and we'll see. It's not like -- and I mean, I'm not playing with them -- if it doesn't go well, it won't be because of the irons. It will be because of me.

So I know I have full confidence in them. But there might be some tweaks or there might be something I prefer in something else. But these ones are the answer this week, and we'll see how it goes.

But I think I'm pretty sure that I'm very close. I'm on the right track.

Q. No other changes to your clubs?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Driver. There's a new driver but it's literally like the next model of what I had already, and that's it for now. I regripped my putter, if that counts.

Q. A question from Sam. Your most meaningful win so far in your career?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Probably this one but not last year. The first time, 2017 Abu Dhabi win. Just from where I came from to that point, really. I'd say that was the most meaningful.

Q. Why and when did you start with the punch shot?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: It was a practise drill for like a long time to help me. That punch, I must have hit a thousand balls a week on the range doing it, and it soon became evident that it helps me and it became like a full swing on the course, really.

So yeah, it was a practise drill that ended up being a full swing.

Q. And finally, if you win a major this year, will you shave your hair?

BRIONY CARLYON: And on that note, I think we're done. Thank you.

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