Fleetwood targeting unique double-double
June 27, 2018
Tommy Fleetwood can complete a unique double-double at this week’s HNA Open de France - the European Tour’s third Rolex Series event of 2018 - but the Race to Dubai champion faces a strong field at Le Golf National.
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“It’s nice to come back and have such good memories. You can look back at great rounds that you had when you finished with a win."
“The course seems so different. It's set up now for the Ryder Cup in September. So a lot of the shots look a lot different. But still, coming back and remembering what you did on a Sunday or whatever day you pick, it's always nice just to play, even in your practice round and just remember those shots that you hit."
Fleetwood claimed the title 12 months ago to extend his impressive start to the 2017 season, having won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and recorded his best finish in a Major Championship at the US Open. The Englishman finds himself in the same position this week after successfully defending his title in Abu Dhabi in January, and finishing runner up at Shinnecock Hills earlier this month.
“This event last year came at a point where I was pretty much in the form of my life. I went on to have some great finishes and obviously had a great year, after wining at the start of the year. But winning the French Open is one of the biggest events we play on tour, so to win one of them was massive, and the way I did it. I was up there all week and then Sunday I led the whole way and felt very confident. It put me top at the Race to Dubai again so it was a pretty big week and I missed the cut five times here before it. So it was a big improvement.”
A successful title defence at Le Golf National over the next four days, to add to his second Abu Dhabi win, would seal a unique double-double, as he also attempts to become the first player since Graeme McDowell in 2014 to retain the prestigious HNA Open de France title.
The World Number Ten tees it up in the opening two rounds alongside American Justin Thomas - the World Number Two - while the fifth ranked player in the world, Jon Rahm, returns for a second consecutive year to Le Golf National, the course which will host September’s Ryder Cup between Europe and the United States.
“Playing in the Open de France is different, but it's a great experience for me," said Thomas. "It obviously has some additional intentions to it, with The Ryder Cup this fall, but it just worked out in the schedule where I really wanted to come here, and it worked out well to do so.
“I wanted to play against a great field, which it looks like we're going to have. It's a tremendous field this week, and especially playing in one of the Rolex Series events. It's a big deal for the European Tour, and again, I'm very happy and lucky that you all are letting me come over here and crash the party a little bit this week. It should be a fun week.”
Rahm’s fellow Spaniard, Sergio Garcia, joins Thomas in making his debut in the tournament, three months before France hosts the biennial contest for the first time, while European Captain Thomas Bjørn will be keeping a close eye on a number of those in contention for his 12-man team, including Tyrrell Hatton, Alex Noren, both of whom are currently in the automatic qualifying positions along with Fleetwood and Rahm, and a number of players looking to break into those spots, such as Thorbjørn Olesen, Matt Fitzpatrick, Ian Poulter and home favourite Alex Levy.
“I'm excited to play here, and excited to play on a really strong, tough golf course. Obviously with what's coming later in the year, too, it's an exciting week," said Garcia.
“The golf course is in really good shape. The greens are a little bit soft at the moment. They weren't too fast yesterday. But the course looks great and it is little intimidating look wise from the tee with all that fescue high grass, but everybody's got to hit it and hopefully as straight as possible. It should be a good challenge.”