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April 8, 2019

Tommy Fleetwood

Augusta, Georgia

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It is our pleasure to welcome Tommy Fleetwood to the interview room. Tommy, thanks for joining us and kicking us off with our first media interview for the 2019 Masters.
When you were a child, I read that you and your father, Pete, used to sneak on to Royal Birkdale. You made your first cut at an Open Championship in 2017. That weekend must have brought back some pretty special memories. What are your first memories, also, of the Masters?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Well, the first one I remember watching was‑‑ the proper one I first watched was in 1997 when Tiger won. Before that, I remember Nick Faldo holing his putt to win in '96, but before that I don't have much recollection.
But I remember watching in'97 or '96 and I remember my dad saying, he said something like, "This guy's going to be good," meaning Tiger. He said, "This guy's going to win a few." Obviously for me being the age I am, that was the start of not just my Masters memories, it was the start of sort of Tiger's era for me, and it was cool to watch that.
Again, one of those tournaments, there's only a set few tournaments that you would watch every year, year‑in, year‑out, and the Masters is like No. 1 on that list.
THE MODERATOR: You had a fantastic month in March, top five finishes at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and THE PLAYERS. Congratulations.
THE MODERATOR: This is now your third appearance at the Masters. How comfortable are you feeling with your game and being back here at Augusta National?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, everything's been in better shape as the year's gone on. Didn't start as fast as I have done in the past couple years, so worked my way into the season. I think I‑‑ Arnold Palmer, in particular, I built a lot of confidence that week, and then the following week was as confident as I felt on a golf course.
It was‑‑ it's strange when you have the two best finishes of the year and you're disappointed in both of them because I really felt like, you know, I had good chances in both, and I didn't really‑‑ I didn't win either. But overall, everything's in really good shape. I feel great being here this week. I feel now I've been here, this is my third time playing, you really get a sense of like the difference in how you feel from year one to year two to year three. Year one, it's all so new, and not overwhelming, but there's so much to take in and it's your first time here.
Year two, you've been here already, so you're more comfortable with it and it just kind of progresses to the point where, I'm not like Freddie Couples stage or anything like that, but I'm getting a better‑‑ I'm getting a better understanding and feeling of the tournament and the course and what that involves.

Q. Just was wondering, looking at your scoring averages from Thursday, Friday, over to Saturday, Sunday, is getting over the hump and turning some of these close calls into wins, is it just a matter of finding Thursday, Friday Tommy when you need him on the weekend?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, look, like there has been like a little bit of a trend, and sort of the thing to realize is like I've‑‑ Saturdays, I haven't played great at times. But also, I haven't done loads wrong, either.
If you put yourself up there on Friday, you play in the toughest conditions on Saturday. And if your game is not quite on or if you don't play well, then it looks worse than what it is. You know, the Saturday at Bay Hill for me and Keegan, and the guys that were out late, I actually played okay that day but it's like playing a U.S. Open on a Saturday. If you get the wrong side of the golf course, then you're struggling.
But for sure, like putting four rounds of golf together, the 72 holes in a week over the course of four days, it's a long time and it's a lot of golf shots. To win, you're always going to have bad stretches but you know, you have to put four consistent rounds of golf together, or three and then the fourth one needs to go okay. A poor round is not going to get it done. That's not easy.
You play the toughest golf courses and you play with some of the best players in the world and winning's not easy, but that‑‑ I think the fact that that is what we're looking at quite often now just shows that I've done really well over the past couple of years. I've put myself up there a lot, and it really is just a case of letting it happen, and the more you dwell on it and the more you try, it gets harder and harder.
So I think just be really happy with the amount of good stuff that I continue to produce, and you know, just try and make sure in the future, I think that if I can make that round just more consistent and just level it out, then things will be good.

Q. Do you treat this week any differently because it's the Masters, or do you try to look at it as just another week on Tour?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Well, it's not just another week on Tour. But you try and do everything the same. This, I think whether this was a regular event or the Masters, the golf course itself needs a bit more preparation than usual, anyway. There's so many different things to consider. There's so many options here and there, and particularly hitting into greens, chipping around the greens and putting; I don't think you can ever learn enough.
So just the golf course itself takes more preparation, but aside from that, you know, everything's amped up. It's the Masters. There's a different atmosphere. It's the first major of the year, and you know, everything just seems like, you know, when you get to this week, everything that's happened before just doesn't really matter. You know, this is it. So you can't‑‑ you know, you can't get away from the fact that it feels different, but still, you prepare the same as you do for your golf game, and the golf course just needs a little bit of extra time and work. But apart from that, try and keep everything as neutral and similar as possible.

Q. You had the third round 66 here last year. What was it that day that clicked for you that you can take from and learn from this week?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: The course, that Saturday, the course was probably as giving as it will ever be. It was pretty soft. There wasn't much wind, and there was a lot of low scores that day. I played particularly good that day, and I actually remember‑‑ so I missed the cut in the first year, and then I think the first two days, I might have‑‑ I might have bogeyed the last to shoot level and I had actually never beaten the golf course up until that Saturday, and I was really sort of determined that I would get the better of the golf course. I just played great that day. I didn't hole any putt of any distance pretty much. I think I holed an 18‑footer on 12, but apart from that it was all just pretty good golf.
The golf course itself, if I drive it like I normally do, it sets me up in the best possible way to be able to hit my irons into the spots I need to and you can control your ball. That Saturday in particular, you know, it was just set up for good scoring and I was one of them that made the most of it.

Q. Has the condensed, compressed schedule impacted your preparation for this, and is it impacting how you think you will prepare for everything that's coming up?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Not really. I like to, particularly in the majors, I like to have the week off before the major. At the U.S. PGA, I can't do that. The British Masters is on the week before that.
But no, it doesn't change‑‑ it doesn't change much. And to be fair, I've always played a lot. It actually makes the schedule a little bit easier and I'm actually going to end up with a little bit more time off and a little bit more time at home, which will be really nice.
But no, the preparation for the majors stays the same. I'll try to make sure I have a week off and get here earlier and do my stuff gradually throughout the week. But tournament‑wise, no, just keep going. I've always been a guy that's played quite a lot, and I've always felt like I do a good job of staying ready. I like to, even when I go home, just to kind of stay on top of things when you are off, but I always feel like I do a good job of staying ready.
You know, nothing really has affected anything in that sense.

Q. Did your pairing last year with Tiger Woods have some impact on you as you observed how he played the golf course, or as you felt that you really belonged?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: No, it was‑‑ it was a great experience because it was the first time Tiger had been back, and it wasn't necessarily for me. You know, whoever I play with was really‑‑ it doesn't matter. It's irrelevant in a way because you concentrate on your own stuff, and especially on a golf course like this, you're not going to be watching when somebody else is doing. You're on your game and it's important to stay focused.
But I enjoyed‑‑ I enjoyed Tiger's comeback to this event and the way the crowd were and the way the fans reacted to him being back, and I got a front row seat, and just seeing that atmosphere, really and I thought that was a nice sort of memorable couple of days, really, just for the sheer‑‑ he had not been around the Masters for a while and how the fans took to him so well, so I enjoyed that.
But no, it didn't change my outlook to anything or how I feel or how I play. It was, I think it was my first time ever playing with him, but like I say, it doesn't really make any difference because you have to be so, you know, in your own space and in your own bubble; that nothing like that or whoever I play with has never really affected me.

Q. Just take you back to Sunday at Sawgrass and the way you went for the pin at 17 and the way you were going for it. What does it say about your attitude to golf and can we expect the same approach on Sunday if you're in contention, different course, but same sort of thing?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, I didn't think anything of it, really, on the Sunday. I was two behind with two to play, and you know, there was only one way I was ever going to get close, and it was to go for it. It didn't come off, but I didn't really think anything of it. And you know, people's reaction was great, really. I don't know why people would expect me to play for the middle of the green if I had a chance of catching Rory.
But you know, maybe that was‑‑ that's my difference than some other people, but of course, I'm always going to play to win. I've got nothing really‑‑ like I'm never going to really‑‑ not that golf will ever define me as a person, but I'm never going to look back on my career and say, oh, I finished third at THE PLAYERS, that was a good week. Or, oh, I finished top five at the Masters, I made a couple of nice pars on the last to finish top five. That's probably something I'll never say to my kids or grand kids. That's not something to be that proud of.
Winning is what it's all about, not for anything than to win tournaments and big tournaments, THE PLAYERS or the majors, and you know, I want to win them, not for a financial standpoint of anything. It would just be nice to have on my resumé.
Nothing, really, second or sixth or seventh makes a difference to your bank account and it won't make a difference to how you see anything else.

Q. You haven't played here that much, but what do you think of the change to No. 5? Do you like the change? How much tougher is the hole going to play?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: It's funny, because the tee shot is exactly the same, basically. The test off the tee, they brought the bunkers back‑‑ so the yardages off your drive is exactly the same. But it does make a massive difference to the hole.
I think in the past, if you hit it into‑‑ in the past, if you hit it into the bunkers, you actually had half a chance of getting it up somewhere by the green. Now you've got no chance.
I hit a good drive yesterday and the course is playing really soft and a bit long, and I hit 5‑iron in. You know that was like, good drive last year, if you can be aggressive with the driver, you know, wedge or 9‑iron to that middle part of the green is not a difficult shot.
So the hole's been made much more of a challenge; that you have to hit two really good shots now to put yourself in position, and you can't‑‑ I mean, laying up really leaves it, if you want to play short of the bunkers, that really makes the hole in my view, makes it a little bit too long.
I think definitely it's a bigger test of a hole for sure.

Q. Have you found that, the weather has been kind of rainy and such, and have you found that the course has been a little softer? Justin Thomas and Jason Day said it's been a little softer.
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: It's definitely softer, and I think around the greens it makes a difference because the grass is just that little bit lusher. Definitely makes chipping nicer, and a bit easier.
You know, when it's been firm and they have had it tight and the grass can grow against you a little bit, just off the green it's been so difficult because it's been so hard to putt or chip around the green. At the moment with it being softer and there being a little bit more grass, you can just get the club on the ball easier. So around the greens it really has made a difference, and for sure, it's playing longer. The tee shots you're getting nothing out of, a slight mis‑strike and you know you're a couple of clubs longer into the greens. That all adds up.
It also plays‑‑ it's better in the sense the greens are softer and you have more leeway hitting into the greens, but it also plays longer. I think we'd all rather it be softer though than harder.

Q. What would you say has been the highlight of your year so far, on and off the course?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Good question. I think on the course, probably enjoyed the back nine on Saturday at Sawgrass. I think that was great from a character perspective, and I played some really good golf, and I was struggling on a tough course and it was a really good atmosphere.
Off the course every day is a highlight for me (smiling).

Q. Is there an obvious stat or data point that would be reflected in a good total Sunday, and is there one that's not so obvious that you think is valuable for you?
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Yeah, that's a great question. From my perspective, driver is always a massively important club. And if I use my strength well, it opens up a lot of opportunities for me on the golf course, especially if it's playing soft.
I guess around Augusta, it's always going to be‑‑ I think people make a big deal about the greens and around the greens, but if your approach play is hot and really good, most of the time you're going to put yourself in the right positions and you're going to be able to score from there, and it's very difficult to hole putts from around here.
You try not to make too big of a deal about the test of the golf course because it's so different to what we play normally, but you know, for me, I know what it takes for me to win, and that's kind of all I ever look at. We always do our work before a tournament, and I'll get my report on how I'm going to perform well this week.
And in general, it's always the same: Drive it well, hole out well, and the other stuff, keep that in check and keep that solid, and I think that's always a good system.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Tommy, and we wish you all the best for the week ahead.
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: Thank you, guys.

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