Tommy Fleetwood has spent the past 13 years travelling the world competing at the very top level in golf, so he knows not to pass up a great opportunity when it comes along — and that includes a long lie in his own bed at home during tournament week.
That is the scenario at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic as the Englishman now calls the UAE home, having moved here with his family last year.
As he prepared to tee off at Emirates Golf Club on Thursday morning, the 32-year-old had a relaxed air about him.
“It’s a rare opportunity and a rare thing to get to spend a week at home while playing in a tournament,” he smiled. “I just love sleeping in my own bed. I love doing things in my own house. So it’s a bonus this week, it absolutely is. It just kind of makes things that little bit more novel and comfortable, and no matter how much traveling you do, there’s nothing quite like being in your own home.”
While being a resident is new, Fleetwood is no stranger to playing in the Middle East, having won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship back-to-back in 2017 and 2018, while also claiming the Race to Dubai in 2017, and he believes starting his season out here is the perfect beginning to the year.
“Like a lot of us, I think that the way that the season starts, where we get a chance to play in the Middle East, I think we get to play really good golf courses and really good conditions,” he said. “I love the attitude that people have at the start of the year and everybody starts out fresh and hungry and wanting to get off to a really good start.
“I think Emirates Golf Club in particular has become an iconic venue, an iconic tournament and I am at an age where I got to watch it a lot on TV as the tournament was building and building, with champions like Colin Montgomerie and Tiger Woods and Ernie Els. I’ve sort of grown up in that generation where this is like a dream tournament to play in and win. It’s always been great coming back, and like you said before, kind of a home event for me as well.”
The Majlis Course has undergone significant changes in recent years for the Dubai Desert Classic and Fleetwood has done his homework and knows what to expect.
“The main thing has been the firmness of the new greens, how they have set that up, and the rough is much higher,” he said. “So you put those two together, it makes it a very different challenge.
“Every par 5 they have now lengthened, but they are reachable normally. So without the rough, without the greens playing the way they are, that lends itself to really low scoring that we have seen in the past. In the last two or three years, you’ve seen that change. You’ve seen it be a much more difficult championship set-up. I’ve loved that it’s not directly in front of you, the golf course. There’s doglegs, there’s cutting of the corners … but you always get rewarded for good golf shots and I’ve always enjoyed this golf course and I think definitely the last two, three years, I prefer it playing like that.
“I prefer it being tough. I prefer if you play poorly and you struggle, then you’re not really going to have a chance at the weekend, and you have to battle to get something out of the week. So I like that side of it. I much prefer it playing like that, and that’s how it’s been.
“We will see how it goes.”