Tommy Fleetwood, who recently shifted his residence to Dubai, feels that the newly announced Hero Cup and Abu Dhabi will play a crucial role in Team Europe’s chances when they try and regain the Ryder Cup in Italy next year.
The Hero Cup is a Ryder Cup-style team competition between Great Britain and Ireland and Continental Europe, and will be played on January 13-15 at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. It is the first of a four-week stretch in the UAE for DP World Tour. The tournament will be followed by back-to-back $9 million Rolex Series events – the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship (Jan 19-22) and the Dubai Desert Classic (Jan 26-29). The Tour then moves to Ras Al Khaimah for the $2 million RAK Championship.
Fleetwood has been nominated captain of the GB&I team, while Italian Francesco Molinari, the other half of the famous ‘MoliWood’ Ryder Cup pairing that went undefeated when the event was held in Paris in 2019, will spearhead Continental Europe’s challenge.
“I will talk about Europeans as a whole. I think it’s a very important part of the process to how we want to perform at the Ryder Cup,” said Fleetwood, who turns 32 on the final day of the tournament and could be lifting a trophy on his birthday.
“I mean, we started talking about this literally the moment we got on the flight home from Whistling Straits after our (2021 Ryder Cup) loss. That was something we were discussing on the plane that we wanted to have team event again like we had with the EurAsia Cup.
“It’s just another chance to play team golf and set us up better for the Ryder Cup. It’s so important in that way. And I think we've done well to get that. Abu Dhabi is going to be an incredible place as a venue and with the weather. Luke (Donald, European Ryder Cup captain) will be there, and it will be a good chance for some of the players to make an early impression on him.”
Donald announced 18 players for the 10-man team competition, including several promising young stars who have a chance to make a debut in Rome, and some experienced stars like Shane Lowry, Tyrrell Hatton and Alex Noren.
Fleetwood, a two-time winner of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at Abu Dhabi Golf Club (the tournament moved this year to the nearby Yas Links), said it was an honour to be named captain, and that his father was even more pleased than him.
“When I told my dad that Luke had asked me to be the Captain of GB&I, he was like more proud than anything I’ve ever won before. That kind of emotions, for me, is a really cool part of it. And I’ve always enjoyed playing the team element at golf,” said Fleetwood in an exclusive interview to Gulf News on the sidelines of the Tiger Woods-hosted Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.
“I would never seek being a captain. But Luke asked me and to be honest, I was quite taken aback. It’s just a lovely thing to be asked by him. I’m not really at the age that I would be thinking about being a (Ryder Cup) captain, but it’s a nice thing that guys like Luke and whoever selected me, sort of sees those leadership qualities in me.”
When asked what kind of a captain Fleetwood thinks he’d make, the world No23 Englishman said: “I just want to make sure I’m as supportive as possible to everybody that’s playing. I want to make sure everybody in the team feels confident, make sure they all enjoy it and make sure they have the best chance of bringing out their abilities on the golf course in a team atmosphere.
“It’s definitely different. The practice rounds are different, playing each day is different. But the more we can all play as freely as possible and do our own thing and believe in our own abilities, the better chance we have to win the cup.”
Fleetwood, who recently opened his Tommy Fleetwood Academy at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai, was also excited about taking on his good friend Molinari.
“That’s going to be a lot of fun. We have been very close even much before the Ryder Cup in Paris, and it’s always fun to be around Frank,” said the recent Nedbank Golf Challenge winner.
“I’m probably not going to do much. It really is a Ryder Cup preparation thing. I’ll leave a lot of that to Luke. But we both love to be there, and we both love to compete.
“And because the whole theme of the event is Ryder Cup oriented and we are aiming towards September, I think there’ll be a lot of things that we will be doing together. But both me and Frank would love to be a winning captain. However, whatever happens, it’s going to be a great experience.
“I’m just looking forward to playing with the GB&I guys. I think whatever team you play in, whether it be GB&I, whether it be Europe, whether it be in a Eurasia Cup or Presidents, you always have a very different level of bonding just from playing with each other as a team. You make friends for life. And that’s one big thing for me.”