16 Jan 2018

Fleetwood humbled by players’ award as he targets Abu Dhabi title defense

Race to Dubai Champion Tommy Fleetwood’s sensational 2017 was commemorated in memorable fashion today when he received the prestigious Seve Ballesteros Award after being voted Player of the Year by his fellow peers.

The Englishman was visibly shocked as European Tour Chief Executive Keith Pelley and Players’ Commitee Chairman David Howell surprised him and presented the award during a press conference ahead of his defense of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship title this week.

“It’s actually made me the most emotional out of all of them,” said Fleetwood. “I think just this award in particular, having it voted for by the players is pretty special.

“I’ve made a lot of friends, and I think for people to vote for me as the Player of the Year is just something else, that, really. It’s different to anything I’ve achieved before. It’s very flattering, very humbling.”

The award comes as no surprise after a hugely consistent year which saw the 26-year-old start off on in style by winning in Abu Dhabi before adding the HNA Open de France along with a further eight top 10 finishes as he clinched the Race to Dubai title at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship ahead of compatriot Justin Rose. But Fleetwood admitted his lightening quick start in the UAE’s capital last year was somewhat unexpected.

“When I won here last year it kind of came out of nowhere,” said Fleetwood who now stands at 18th in the Official World Golf Ranking.

“I hadn’t done much before over the winter, and it was a course where I hadn’t had much success on but I found myself up there on the last day. It just kind of took us all a little bit by surprise, and it was a massive accumulation of so much hard work and coming back and getting my game back together; I’ve just got so many great memories from that week, and it clearly started a great run for me throughout the year.”

As he prepares to defend his Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship crown Fleetwood revealed that his goals for 2018 are a little different than those he had before teeing off this time last year.

“I’m starting the year with a lot more expectation,” he said. “I’m in a much different place World Ranking-wise, so setting goals and making improvements becomes more difficult. You have to put a lot more extra work in to get smaller gains, but I’m very lucky with the people I have around me.

“I want more of the same. It’s easy to pick out tournaments that you want to win, and it’s easy to say, oh, I want to win a Major, I want to compete in the Majors and I want to make The Ryder Cup team but you have to remember to just keep progressing. I know how easy it is to go off-track. I know what it takes to sort of stay on the right track and I know I’m surrounded by people that are going to keep me going that way.”

With that goal of a Ryder Cup place in his sights Fleetwood will be looking to set the pace with a win this week.  With a world-class field which includes World No.1 Dustin Johnson in attendance he’ll have his work cut out, but if he plays to the standard he set last season the Race to Dubai champion will certainly be in with a shout of starting 2018 with a bang just as he did in 2017.

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