Tommy targets trio of Abu Dhabi triumphs
January 15, 2019
Tommy Fleetwood is targeting an historic third successive victory at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA, the first of eight Rolex Series events on the 2019 Race to Dubai, but the Englishman must first overcome a world-class field including two of the world's top three players.
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The 2018 Ryder Cup star turns 28 this Saturday, and with a Wednesday start and Saturday finish this year, the scene is perfectly set for Fleetwood to lift the famous falcon trophy for the third time – which would make him just the ninth player in European Tour history to win the same event three times in a row.
“I've said it before, the course kind of battered me for a few years. I've only missed four or five cuts around here, had two years where I've won but overall, the course is, has always been a very fair test.
“This is a course where if you play well, you can do well and if you don't, you kind of struggle. Just so happens the last two years, I played really well, kind of like tee-to-greened it to death in a way. I've played so well that, you know, it was hard. I made very little bogeys over two years, and ultimately that's ended up in me winning a couple times.
“I've been trying things for a long time now. I spent quite a bit of time in San Diego last year, trying all different manufacturers. You don't really get the chance throughout the year, and then you get the chance again as the year ends, but I had a pretty dry spell of not playing golf, so the only time to test is now, really. I had a week of practise last week trying everything we can."
The main contenders to his throne include American duo Brooks Keopka and Dustin Johnson, World Number Two and World Number Three respectively, as well as Fleetwood's former Ryder Cup team-mates Tyrrell Hatton, Thorbjørn Olesen, Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson.
“I feel like the game's in good form," said Johnson. "I've been working on it since Hawaii, so I feel like it's definitely gotten a little bit better, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it holds up this week on the golf course.
“Obviously it's very hard to win out here but giving myself the opportunity to have a chance to win, I think that's important. And then, yeah, obviously the number of wins you have in a season will definitely dictate if it's good or not.”
Lee Westwood, meanwhile, returns for his first appearance of the 2019 season having claimed one of the most significant victories of his career, and his maiden Rolex Series title, at November's Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player Country Club.
“I finished last year off, I'm looking forward to getting going this year as quickly as possible. Sort of in the same vein of form. You know, this is always a good place to start the year. Conditions are perfect and it's a good run of tournaments in pretty much guaranteed weather, and the golf courses are in brilliant condition normally.
“You take a lot of confidence from any win, but one in a Rolex Series, it obviously means a little bit more, and to finish it off as I did, which I haven't done for some time. I hit a lot of good shots when I needed to and controlled myself well, so there were a lot of positives from that week, and the following week in Dubai, played well again.”