Fleetwood targets Dubai double

Mark McGowan
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Tommy Fleetwood (Photo: Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

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Tommy Fleetwood is hopeful 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 Emirates Golf Club.

Fleetwood arrives at the first Rolex Series event of the year filled with confidence 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 Invitational, where he edged out his Ryder Cup teammate Rory McIlroy on the final hole.

The Englishman’s 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 eighth-place finish on the Race to Dubai with a runner-up finish in the DP World Tour Championship.

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The 32-year-old 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.

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 which has not yet yielded the results he would have liked.

In 12 previous appearances, Fleetwood’s resume reads nicely: A best of tied sixth in 2018 (one of two top tens) followed by ties for 16th in 2019, 11th in 2020, 17th in 2021 and 12th in 2022, missing just two 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 at Emirates Golf Club.

Last week was great,” Fleetwood said. “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 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.

“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.

“I think you have to know the course. 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.”

Earlier in the day, Adrian Meronk was awarded the 2023 Seve Ballesteros Award after being voted Player of the Year by his peers on the DP World Tour.

The accolade is one of a number of the 31-year-old’s history-making achievements as he becomes the first player from Poland to receive the honour after a season in which he won three times and finished a career-high fourth on the Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex.

Meronk was presented with the trophy by one of Seve’s sons, Javier, who travelled to Dubai ahead of this week’s Hero Dubai Desert Classic, won by his father more than 30 years ago.It feels amazing.

“I’m shocked to be honest,” Meronk said after being honoured by his fellow professionals. “I didn’t expect that. You got me by surprise. But seeing my name next to all of these players, it’s unbelievable. I’m very grateful for this award.  It means a lot to me that other players appreciate my season last year.

“Last year was the best season so far in my career. I’m really happy that other players saw that, as well and give that award. Just thank you for that and I have to keep going.

“That should give me all the more confidence probably. I enjoy this week. I love playing here in Dubai. It’s probably one of my favourite tournaments of the year. So I’m excited to be here. We have such a great field this week. So I will just enjoy every moment.”

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