Tommy Fleetwood, who recently moved his residence to Dubai, believes the newly announced Hero Cup and Abu Dhabi will play a crucial role in Team Europe’s chances when they bid to win back the Ryder Cup in Italy next year.
The Hero Cup is a Ryder Cup-style team competition between Great Britain and Ireland and mainland Europe, and will be played January 13-15 at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club. This is the first of a four week series in the United Arab Emirates for the DP World Tour. The tournament will be followed by back-to-back $9 million Rolex Series events – the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship (January 19-22) and the Dubai Desert Classic (January 26-29). The Tour then travels to Ras Al Khaimah for the $2 million RAK Championship.
Fleetwood has been named team GB&I captain, while Italy’s Francesco Molinari, the other half of the famous Ryder Cup duo ‘MoliWood’ who went unbeaten at the 2019 Paris event, will spearhead of the challenge of continental Europe.
“I will talk about Europeans as a whole. I think that’s a very important part of the process of how we want to perform at the Ryder Cup,” said Fleetwood, who turns 32 on the final day of the tournament and could lift a trophy on his birthday.
“I mean, we started talking about it literally the moment we got on the flight home from Whistling Straits after our loss (at the 2021 Ryder Cup). It was something we were talking about on the plane that we wanted to have a team event again like we did with the EurAsia Cup.
“It’s just another chance to play golf as a team and better prepare for the Ryder Cup. It’s so important that way. And I think we did well to get that. Abu Dhabi is going to be an incredible place as a place and with the weather. Luke (Donald, European Ryder Cup captain) will be there, and it will be a good opportunity for some players to make a first impression on him.
Donald has announced 18 players for the 10-man team competition, including several promising young stars who have the chance to make their debuts in Rome, and some experienced stars like Shane Lowry, Tyrrell Hatton and Alex Noren.
Fleetwood, a two-time winner of the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship at Abu Dhabi Golf Club (the tournament was moved this year to nearby Yas Links), said it was an honor to be named captain and that his father was even happier than him.
“When I told my dad that Luke had asked me to be the captain of GB&I, he was prouder than anything I had earned before. Those kinds of emotions, for me, are a part of that. really cool. And I’ve always loved playing the team element of golf,” Fleetwood said in an exclusive interview with Gulf News on the sidelines of the Hero World Challenge hosted by Tiger Woods in the Bahamas.
“I would never seek to be captain. But Luke asked me and to be honest I was quite surprised. It’s just a nice thing to be asked by him. I’m not really the age which I would consider being captain (of the Ryder Cup), but it’s a good thing that guys like Luke and whoever picked me, kind of see those leadership qualities in me.
When asked what kind of captain Fleetwood thinks he would make, the English world No.23 replied: “I just want to make sure I’m as supportive as possible of everyone playing. I want to make sure everyone on the team feels confident, make sure they all enjoy it, and make sure they have the best chance to showcase their abilities on the golf course in a team atmosphere.
“It’s definitely different. Practice rounds are different, playing every day is different. But the more we can all play as freely as possible, do our own thing and believe in our own abilities, the more likely we are to win the cup.
Fleetwood, who recently opened his Tommy Fleetwood Academy at the Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai, was also thrilled to take on his good friend Molinari.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun. We were very close even long before the Ryder Cup in Paris, and it’s always fun to be around Frank,” said the recent winner of the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
“I probably won’t do much. It’s really a Ryder Cup prep thing. I’ll leave much of that to Luke. But we both like to be there, and we both like to compete.
“And because the whole theme of the event is geared towards the Ryder Cup and we’re aiming for September, I think there will be a lot of things we’ll do together. But me and Frank would like to be a winning captain. However, no matter what, it will be a great experience.
“I just can’t wait to play with the guys from GB&I. I think whatever team you play on, whether it’s GB&I, whether it’s in Europe, whether it’s in a Eurasia Cup or Presidents, you always have a very different level of bonding just by playing one with others as a team. You make friends for life. And that’s a big thing for me.