Tommy Fleetwood plans on small steps at Abu Dhabi, beyond in 2018

Tommy Fleetwood Camel Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Tommy Fleetwood plans on small steps at Abu Dhabi, beyond in 2018

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Tommy Fleetwood plans on small steps at Abu Dhabi, beyond in 2018

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – European number one Tommy Fleetwood expects to make small steps forward this season rather than the giant strides he took last year.

The Englishman arrives in the Middle East for the $3 million Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship in a far different frame of mind than 12 months ago. Last year he was the 100th ranked player in the world. He hadn’t won a tournament since the 2013 Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he was turning up at a tournament he’d only made one cut in five. Throw in swing changes and it wasn’t a recipe for success.

Yet the 26-year-old Fleetwood took down Dustin Johnson and won the tournament to kick start his route to finishing the year as European number one.

“I won last year and it kind of did come out of nowhere,” said Fleetwood, who has won the Seve Ballesteros Award, formerly the Players’ Player of the Year, for his 2017 exploits. “It was a course where I had not had much success, and I found myself up there on the last day. It kind of took us a little by surprise.

“It gave me a lot of confidence to move on in the year and then for whatever else I achieved.”

Fleetwood also won the French Open and edged out Justin Rose to end the season as European number one. So what lies in store this season for the affable Englishman?

“I want more of the same,” Fleetwood said. “It’s easy to pick out tournaments that you want to win, and it’s easy to say ‘I want to win a major, I want to compete in the majors and I want to make The Ryder Cup Team’ but you have to remember to just keep progressing.

“The difficult part is that last year I made so many big strides from where I was, and you have to keep in perspective that the strides aren’t going to keep getting that big.

“The hardest thing about it is the better you get and the higher your expectations get, the less leeway you give yourself when you don’t play very well, and it can get frustrating very easily.”

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