Rolex Series

Tommy Fleetwood says he still has room for improvement ahead of Hero Dubai Desert Classic

Tommy Fleetwood says he still has room for improvement in this event but dreams of adding his name to the impressive list of Hero Dubai Desert Classic champions as he prepares to play in his 13th consecutive appearance at the Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club.

Fleetwood arrives at the first Rolex Series event of the year with confidence in his form following a dramatic birdie-birdie finish to earn his first title on the DP World Tour since the 2022 Nedbank Golf Challenge at last week's Dubai Invitaitonal, where he edged out Rory McIlroy on the final hole.

His win came just days after he admitted that he was searching for a missing piece that could help him lead him to more victories after a season that saw him cap off an eight-place finish on the Race to Dubai with a runner-up finish in the DP World Tour Championship.

He had gone into last week with tempered expectations due to a long-haul flight from Maui back home to Dubai, where he lives with his family, but a third-round 63 propelled him to the top of the leaderboard and would eventually lead to his seventh DP World Tour title.

"Last week was great," said Fleetwood.

"As much as it was a long travel week, and I might not have expected my best golf early on, I still felt like I was there for a purpose and I wanted to work my way into the week. Just so happened I played a bit better than I thought I would, and I was in the tournament from there. 

"It's always nice; I think like having good performances to show positive signs of your hard work and give yourself confidence in your game is always a great feeling. And now on top of that, you get the ultimate and you have a win, that feels great.

"It was great. It's always putting yourself in contention, playing against the best players in the world and getting another win on tour is very, very special."

"So looking forward to this week. Feel like I sort of took a lot of positives from last week. Looked at things where I felt like I could improve. Started practice yesterday. Looking forward to another great week.  There's always another week and there's always hundreds of people that are practising and working hard for whatever is coming. So yeah, try and stay in the present and look forward to this one.

"The way I played, certain elements, my attitude on Sunday, the overall finish, there's a lot of positives to take and the confidence to take from the work you're putting in, and you end up performing in the most-high pressure situations, yeah, take those. 

"Still have lots of goals for the year. Lots of goals for this week as well. You know, want to keep improving as a golfer. Like I say, everybody is out there on the range practising trying to do their best, and you have to go out and compete against those guys.

"I practised yesterday. Worked on the things that I wanted to work on, and you know, I'll do the same today, and it all goes towards Thursday when we tee off this week."

Taking those positives of an early victory into the second week of the year, Fleetwood is now hoping to improve on his record and focus on his goals at Emirates Golf Club, which he admits is a place where has not yet yielded the results he would have liked them to.

In 12 previous appearances, Fleetwood's resume reads nicely: A best of tied sixth in 2018 (one of two top tens) followed with a tie for 16th in 2019, tied 11th in 2020, tied 17th in 2021 and tied 12th in 2022, and he has just two missed cuts in that time.

Yet he still feels there is room for improvement, and while last year he felt disappointed by a 72 and 73 over the weekend to drop to a tie for 56th, Fleetwood is still confident that experience can help out here.

"I think you have to know the course," he said.

"I haven't had the results that I would want here. In the past, I think I might have had one top five maybe. There's room for improvement on how I've played around here, but definitely, whenever you come to somewhere where you know the shots, you can visualise the shots, you've seen so many people play the course and you've got a feel for it, it does make a difference.

"You go out there and you draw on the experience you've got, and you know certain areas where you haven't quite been as well, so that makes preparing easier as well. You just have a nice feeling around here. You're so used to, so it's normal.

"You have to just hang in there. It's generally a low-ish winning score. The course can play tough. If you don't drive it well, it's going to be hard to score. You'll need your wedge game to be on and putting.

"But overall, knowing there's a low score out there and knowing at any given time there's a chance to get on a roll, stay patient, and see if you find yourself up there at the end of the week."

This week marks the first time the Hero Dubai Desert Classic has staged the first Rolex Series event of the year, and plays a big role in the newly named International Swing, which began at the Dubai Invitational and also includes the Ras Al Khaimah Championship (Jan 25-28), Bahrain Championship (Feb 1-4), Commercial Bank Qatar Masters (Feb 8-11), Magical Kenya Open (Feb 22-25), SDC Championship (Feb 29-Mar 3) and Jonsson Workwear Open (Mar 7-10).

The event, which celebrates its 35th edition this week, is one that has played a long-standing role on the DP World Tour for the last four decades, and Fleetwood was keen to underline just how important the Middle East has become in the world of professional golf, and in particular to the DP World Tour.

"I grew up dreaming of playing on the DP World Tour," he said.

"I'm from England, and I grew up dreaming of playing on this tour, and a lot of my heros are on this tour and the Middle East has been a big part of that for a long time.

"Living here, I always get to see a lot here and play a role in the development of young golfers out here and how big the game is for the nation.

"Yeah, I think it's very important. I think it's held a place in the world of golf for a long time, and it should do for a long time in the future. I think everybody has great things to say about here. You have iconic golf courses. People watch tournaments played on this courses year-in, year-out, the same courses, and I think people are very, very passionate about the game. I don't know what the numbers are, but there's definitely a strong ratio for people playing the game. There's not so many golf courses in terms of the actual numbers, and I just think that will continue to grow. I think more golf courses will be built. I think more people will take up the game and I think it will keep growing here. So it definitely has a strong place in the world of golf."

As for what a victory for Fleetwood in this tournament would mean to him?

"[It's a] beautiful trophy to have your name on with a whole list of amazing winners and legends of the game. I'll keep dreaming of having my name on that trophy one day."

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