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Honma Hong Kong Open

Hong Kong crowds love Tommy Fleetwood, but it doesn’t bother Matthew Fitzpatrick

Englishman shoots four-under-par in his first round and is not fazed by the attention on his playing partner and compatriot

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 November, 2017, 3:48pm
UPDATED : Monday, 27 November, 2017, 11:44am

For Matthew Fitzpatrick, flamboyant fellow pro and Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood is just another pro.

Fitzpatrick, who shot a four-under-par 66 in the opening round of the UBS Hong Kong Open on Thursday, was grouped with Fleetwood and defending champion Sam Brazel at Fanling – drawing a sizeable crowd.

Most of the fans’ attention was on the long-haired Fleetwood but Fitzpatrick said he was not fazed by the attention.

“Yeah, we had a bit of a crowd,” said the 23-year-old Fitzpatrick. “People are going to be following Tommy seeing as he won The Race to Dubai the other day.

“I played with Tommy in my first start as a pro, so playing with Tommy, no offence to him, but I’ve played with him a few times before, so I get used to it.”

Fleetwood remains in contention at Fanling after his opening round of two-under 68 but Fitzpatrick is certainly among the favourites after his opening round in difficult conditions.

“It’s a good start to the week,” he said. “It’s not an easy course around here. Listening to Justin Rose talking after the Pro-Am, he said four-unders would be a good score. Yeah, definitely take that right now and see where you end up.

“I hit it great tee to green. I think I had like seven or eight chances inside 15 feet, and on a day like today when it’s so windy and such a tough golf course, with how tight it is, it was a good day.”

“I’ve been playing nicely. Just trying to keep it ticking over obviously this week and finish on a high for the year, and then have some time off.”

Fitzpatrick is hoping Thursday’s first round is as difficult as it’s going to get at the Hong Kong Golf Club.

“I think hopefully today is as hard as it’s going to play,” he said. “Although, if it plays like this and I shoot the same score for the next three days, I’ll be very, very happy. It’s not easy with how strong the wind is and how easy it switches direction. It’s a tough golf course without any wind, so it makes it very tricky.”

Fitzpatrick has won four times on the European Tour and finished 12th at the recent Tour Championship in Dubai, in which he was leading at the halfway stage but had a poor third round.

Having won in Dubai last year and finishing joint-fourth in 2015, Fitzpatrick is still ruing his inability to win two in a row despite a strong final round.

“If anything it was more disappointed than encouraging, because to be leading after 36 holes, playing well, knowing the course really, really well,” he said. “I just had a bad day Saturday. The course was set up for the taking and didn’t really sort of play my best.

“I think if I had come back there, nine times out of 10 playing the way I was playing, I could have shot five under pretty easily. I know it sounds daft, but the course was playing very scorable that day. Just a bad day cost me. “