Dubai: Two-time Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship winner Tommy Fleetwood
The Englishman won the season-opening tournament in the UAE back-to-back in 2017 and 2018 and also claimed the 2017 Race to Dubai crown.
- Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship: Rory McIlroy playing the long game
- Golf: Shane Lowry sets sights on big 2021, starting at Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship
- Race to Dubai champion Lee Westwood raring to go again at Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship
- Golf: New arrival Justin Thomas delighted at COVID-19 safety at Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship
It was a near miss last year as he narrowly missed out to Lee Westwood in Abu Dhabi, but after a break over Christmas, the 30-year-old is refreshed and raring to go again in search of a hat-trick of titles here.
“I have been out here to kick-off so many times,” Fleetwood said while speaking to reporters from Abu Dhabi Golf Course. “It is a stable part of my season now. Everyone likes to come out to the Middle East after Christmas for a new year and a new start.”
Despite his recent success in Abu Dhabi, Fleetwood admits that there was no love lost between him and the course as he struggled in the HSBC in his earlier years. “I never took a lot of pleasure out of this course as I missed a lot of cuts. And then in 2017 everything changed and I have had some great results here.”
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is also the first of the European Tour’s Rolex Series events, with $8 million in prize money on offer, but Fleetwood insists the titles are more important than the financial gains.
“I have done well in Rolex Series events and, of course, I would like to turn them in to more wins,” he said. “The prize fund matters and it is a great side of this profession. It is great to provide for my family, and I like living in a nice house and going on nice holidays.
“However, when you are out on the course you don’t think about the money, as you are only concentrating on your game and the title is more important.”
Fleetwood is also still hunting for an elusive major, having finished second in the 2018 US Open and 2019 Open Championship, and he has tweaked his schedule this year as he aims to get what he calls a ”career-changing” title.
“I am always looking at my goals — for the season and my career — I didn’t win at all last season and the first thing I want to do is get back in the winner’s circle,” he said. “But the majors are career-changers and I have altered my calender around them this season as I go for the big competitions. I plan to take the week off before each major this year as I think that is a good approach.
“If I improve bit by bit the natural progression should mean I win a major, but you just have to back yourself to play well. A week off is good but the rest is up to me.”
Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, there will be no fans on the course in Abu Dhabi, which can affect some players who feed off the support, but Fleetwood believes it is down the players to compete no matter the conditions.
“I certainly is a different environment, especially on a Sunday if you are in contention. It does make a difference but we all have a ball, a club and a target. All those things remain the same and it is up to us to perform on the day. Still, it will be great to get the fans back.”
Tommy Fleetwood factfile
Born 19 January 1991 (age 30)
Residence Southport, England
Turned professional 2010
Professional wins 8
Highest ranking 9 (18 November 2018)
Number of wins by tour
European Tour 5
Sunshine Tour 1
Challenge Tour 1
Best results in major championships
Masters T17 — 2018
PGA Championship T29 — 2020
US Open 2nd — 2018
The Open Championship 2nd — 2019