Hong Kong Open: Tommy Fleetwood wipes away tears and starts new Race to Dubai campaign
- Englishman was emotional after missing out on a second Race to Dubai title
- He tees off with Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia, Miguel Angel Jimenez at Fanling
Tommy Fleetwood was close to tears just a few days ago after failing to defend the prestigious Race to Dubai title.
The affable Englishman was barely able to speak after his Tour Championship third round on Saturday in Dubai left him with little chance of winning the tournament, which he needed to do to capture his second straight Race to Dubai crown.
“You live and breathe the game don’t you? So there’s going to be good bits and bad bits,” he told the European tour in an emotional interview. “At the end of the day, it’s just golf but it does hurt.”
However, he hopes a fresh start to the season at everybody’s favourite course – at the Honma Hong Kong Open – will help him erase the blues and launch a fresh assault on the new season’s Race to Dubai campaign.
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“It’s a great atmosphere [at Fanling] ... for a new start. If you play well here, you’re on a head start for the year. It sets your season up perfectly,” he said.
Fleetwood finished third in the Race to Dubai behind his good friend and Ryder Cup partner Francesco Molinari and US Masters champion Patrick Reed, who is also playing in Hong Kong this week.
“It’s a great course and I think it’s one of those courses where it doesn’t need length to play tough, and the scoring is never that low. You find very few players that would have a bad word to say about the golf course. Most people love it and love the challenge, and it’s hosted the tournament for such a long time.
“I think that’s credit to the golf course when you have somewhere that has been a constant, you know, part of the Tour and hosting the event, it just shows the course, and everybody wants to play here and everybody has faith that it’s going to put up a great test. For me, I’ve not been coming here long but I’ve always enjoyed it when I have, and I like the challenges that it presents.”
Fleetwood made a strong start to the season last year with a sixth-placed finish at the Hong Kong Open, finishing two strokes behind Australian winner Wade Ormsby.
He faces another testing time at Fanling with Reed, four-time winner Miguel Angel Jimenez, 2014 winner Scott Hend, France’s 2009 champion Gregory Bourdy and a strong Asian field chasing top honours.
Reed is also ruing his near miss at the Race to Dubai but is delighted to be back in Hong Kong.
“It’s one of those years that you always dream of,” he said of his Masters title. “You always dream of winning your first major, and then to just kind of play consistently and solid throughout the entire year, and to finish the season off correctly and going into Dubai and playing some really solid golf.
“Unfortunately being in a position to win a golf tournament, but to not quite get it done, and to finish second in the Race to Dubai means a lot. It’s definitely making me a little more hungry to go out and try to win the Race to Dubai, and try to cap off a couple wins on the European Tour and play well back in the States.
“I’m really looking forward to it. Any time I can come back and play in Hong Kong, it means a lot to me. I fell in love with this place the first time I came. Not only do I love the golf course, but kind of the nuances that the golf course has and the challenges it has, but also the city and the culture around Hong Kong is unbelievable.”
Spain’s Sergio Garcia goes into the Hong Kong tournament on the back of a good year, with a top-10 finish at the Portugal Masters, victory at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters and second at the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
“I think I had a very good start and a great finish on the year,” he said. “That’s where we stand right now, and the last I think four or five tournaments, top 10s everywhere. So that’s obviously a positive, and you know, we’re hoping to finish the year on the same manner, kind of start the season in the same manner, and then take a nice, well deserved rest.”
Ormsby, whose victory last year was his first career title, said it was strange to see pictures of his face sharing the billboards with Reed, Garcia and Fleetwood.
“It’s a bit weird walking into a golf tournament and seeing a picture of my ugly head on the walls,” he said. “No, I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a golf course I love and a course that suits my game, so, it’s nice to come back and come to a place where you feel like you can contend.”