Just four days after the 2017 Race to Dubai came down to the final shots of the season, champion Tommy Fleetwood returns to the place where the “greatest achievement of my career so far” at the UBS Hong Kong Open.
When Fleetwood teed it up at Hong Kong Golf Club 12 months ago, little could he have known that his tie for third in his first appearance at the event would help lay the foundations to make him Europe’s Number One.
A win at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship next time out would move him to the top of the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex, a position he would hold for the majority of the rest of the campaign.
He was run close by fellow Englishman Justin Rose, who would have beaten him if he had made an eagle rather than a birdie on the final hole of the season at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
That provided one of the most dramatic finales in European Tour history and Fleetwood will now set out to make some more and become just the eighth man to go back-to-back as Europe’s Number One.
Olympic champion Rose, who won this event in 2015, is back at the Hong Kong Golf Club this week alongside debutant Sergio Garcia to headline an outstanding field who are all looking to topple Fleetwood in the new Race to Dubai
“New season – let’s go again,” he said. “I found it amazing that I started the season here last year, 12 months ago, and then you were watching the last shot be played in the Race to Dubai to decide what happened. I find it amazing when you have that much time and it all comes down to that.
“Even though it’s the new season we’re carrying on tournaments, this is the fifth week away now but we’ll keep working hard and keep doing the same things.
“When we do get chance to sit down, we’ll have a look at what was good in 2017, what could be improved on and we’ll make sure that we make those adjustments and then look at goal-setting as well.
“The last few weeks of last season it was all about trying to win the Race to Dubai and it’s impossible to take your mind off that. It could have gone either way at the end and it was really nice that it got completed and it’s something that I’ll have forever, now.
Hong Kong is always one of the most popular destinations on the European Tour International Schedule and Fanling has played host to this event in every staging since it joined the Tour as a co-sanctioned event with the Asian Tour and the Hong Kong Golf Association in the 2002 season.
Miguel Ángel Jiménez has been a four-time winner since then and Fleetwood believes you will not go too far wrong at Hong Kong Golf Club if you model your game on the charismatic Spaniard.
“You’re never going to overpower it,” Fleetwood continued. “You need to position your golf ball. There’s a few players that have done well here, I think Miguel is a perfect example – he’s dialled-in and he knows his game.
“You have to position it, you have to hit it well and you have to be sensible. You can’t push it. You just have to stay patient all the time and try and pick it off as you go along. You’ve to use all different aspects of your game.
“I really enjoyed this last year, obviously got my season off to a really good start, finished third, played really well, I absolutely loved the course and I think Hong Kong is a great city.”