January 06, 2018
Tommy Fleetwood: ‘I want to win majors and play in multiple Ryder Cups’
Tommy Fleetwood had precious few reasons to relish 2017 reaching its end. If there was one, then surely the biennial meeting of Europe and the United States falling this year provided the 26-year-old with valid cause to look forward rather than back.
Fleetwood ticks so many boxes that his appeal is both obvious and underplayed. As the son of a Southport lorry driver, he – like Rory McIlroy – provides an ideal antidote to the notion of golf as a playground for little rich kids. Fleetwood, every ounce the unaffected boy next door yet among the world’s leading golfers, should be admired. When a serious career slump, which reached a point during the summer of 2016 when Fleetwood was scared to tee off in competition play, is factored in then his stunning past 12 months is worthy of high praise.
What looks a key step in the next, logical path for Fleetwood arrives in Malaysia next weekend. He will form part of the European contingent at the Eurasia Cup, with the fact the captaincy is held by Thomas Bjorn highlighting what the event is intended to be a precursor for. It would be a surprise if Fleetwood does not qualify automatically for September’s Ryder Cup, at Le Golf National outside Paris, but he can still use three days in Kuala Lumpur to make a lasting impression on Bjorn.
“I wanted to be at the last two Ryder Cups but didn’t come close,” Fleetwood says. “As soon as I got to the level where I was one good year away from playing in a Ryder Cup, I wanted to do it. I’m starting off now with a much bigger building block in place.
“It is the biggest sporting occasion in the world when it comes around so I want to be there, I want to play multiple Ryder Cups. I just want to be part of that whole thing. Race to Dubai winner, playing in Ryder Cups, winning majors – these are all great parts of a career you want to have.”
The last time Europe faced the US, Fleetwood was trying to piece his golf back together from a low point of No188 in the world. “I had just started getting a little bit better,” he recalls. “I had a couple of top 15s, my game was coming round but I was in no place to be playing in a Ryder Cup.”
What happened next borders on a fairytale. Fleetwood won in Abu Dhabi, where he will defend his trophy this month, to kickstart a run that featured a runners-up position in a World Golf Championship, a tilt at the US Open, victory again in France and fatherhood for the first time.
Fleetwood emerged from a titanic battle with Justin Rose to claim the European Tour’s Race to Dubai crown, just weeks before getting married. “I’d have taken it … I’m not so sure I would have believed it,” says Fleetwood when asked if he would have accepted such a scenario if it had been offered 12 months ago. “Race to Dubai was never a goal at the start of last year. It’s funny because when you are doing it, you just keep going, keep playing. You don’t think about other things and you don’t want the run to stop.”
The joust with Rose looked like going against Fleetwood when he made a Sunday 74 to hand the Masters runner-up a position from which most onlookers expected him to convert. Instead, with Fleetwood watching from the scoring hut, Rose stumbled over the back nine.

Tommy Fleetwood: ‘I want to win majors and play in multiple Ryder Cups’

In hindsight, what would it have been like had he not prevailed? “I would have felt like shit,” Fleetwood admits. “When we walked off 18, it was completely out of our control. It was Justin’s to win over nine holes. I had a bad Sunday, Justin had a bad back nine so it’s shown up that way but we were the top two golfers throughout the year.
“It was a bit of a weird day because I was disappointed with how I played on the Sunday. Then I ended up winning it, which felt great, we all had a few beers then I got on a flight for Hong Kong and you start on a new tournament week.
“I’m not going to tournaments for no reason or just for a party. I had a few moments in Hong Kong, the odd minute where you sit down and reflect more than anything of having that ticked off in your career. It’s something special. I want to do it again now. It is a massively recognised thing, it isn’t just like winning a tournament. I went to the Bahamas [for the Hero World Challenge] and Tiger Woods comes in: ‘Tommy, awesome. Great stuff.’ Tiger Woods. It showed massive consistency in my game.”
For Fleetwood to become that modern-day rarity of an English major champion – Rose at the 2013 US Open and Danny Willett at the 2016 Masters are the only men to achieve this since Nick Faldo – short-game improvements must continue. There is also the continuing pushing of comfort-zone boundaries when in the company of major champions. “Stuff like WGCs and majors, playing more in America, the more you put yourself up against these guys, I feel like the majors – still the biggest events in the world –are just another tournament in a way because you have been playing in these fields,” Fleetwood explains.
“The more comfortable you are there, it is just about winning a golf tournament. The US Open was something I loved. You only gain that experience by being up there and doing it as much as you can.
“I had a massively consistent year and won twice. I want to win a lot more, wherever those tournaments are; winning is a habit I want to keep up. I didn’t win in Hong Kong straight after Dubai and was annoyed by it. Majors would be a nice natural progression. In my career I want to win multiple major championships.”
Plus, of course, achieve that Ryder Cup goal. Fleetwood raises a smile but delivers a firm “I don’t think so” when presented with the theory that the USA – Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas et al – seem destined to dominate. “I mean, the Americans are having one of the best times ever and they’ll have one of the best teams ever but Europe is by no means weak,” he says.
“When you talk about the Ryder Cup being a massive goal for me, you realise how hard it is to get into the team. It is going to be really difficult to get there, which shows the strength of European golf. I think it could be a brilliant Ryder Cup.” And one with Fleetwood, surely, as a component.
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