Tommy Fleetwood admires Shane Lowry's composure following Abu Dhabi turnaround
Englishman was on the receiving end of Lowry's brilliant run at the National Course and the Open
If he were a less equable character, Tommy Fleetwood might harbour bitter feelings towards Shane Lowry for the way he stole his 2019.
At the start of the year, the Englishman arrived in Abu Dhabi at a tournament that had more or less become his own as he targeted a hat-trick of Falcon Trophy wins. Lowry stole the spoils instead.
Then, in an admittedly less-than-temperate high summer, Fleetwood was left on the perch at the Open, the second time he had finished as runner up in a major. The man who beat him to it? Lowry again.
So is he ready to vent? Not a bit of it. “Shane’s one of my closest people out on Tour,” Fleetwood said, as he readied himself for a tilt at regaining the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, presented by EGA.
“One thing I've always admired about him is how freely he plays, especially when he's playing well.
“I love the flow to his swing. I think he's got one of the best short games in world golf.
"I think when he matches that up with hitting it well, he's obviously very hard to beat.”
When Lowry won at the National Course 12 months ago, it was the spark that revived a career that had stalled. Lowry had not played in the capital since 2014, and he was realistically only doing so as he had lost his PGA Tour card.
Yet, just a few months later, he was an Open champion, in dramatic fashion on home soil.
“Last year was such a great year for him,” Fleetwood said.
“I think he was so happy to win again here. I actually remember playing with him in Canada the year before.
“We chatted a lot on the way around, and he had not been playing anywhere near what he'd like to.
“He wasn't happy with it, but he was working hard. Getting that confidence from this win helped him a lot.”
Although it was ultimately at his own expense, Fleetwood said he was chuffed with how his mate had coped with the pressure at the end of his Royal Portrush triumph.
“He was in front of a home crowd,” Fleetwood said. “He had the lead. It was tough conditions.
“As annoying as it was because I was the one that finished second, I thought he handled himself very well. He played great, and he did everything on that Sunday in the right way.
“When he plays well, he's got a lot of confidence about him, and he knows he can compete with anybody.
“He's won a World Golf Championships, he's won a major, and he knows how to do it.”
Title wins in Abu Dhabi have had transformative effects on Fleetwood's career too. Twice, in fact.
In 2017, it proved to him he was on the right path after a career slump. Repeating the trick a year later reinforced the belief that he belonged.
“I had been in a slump for most of 2015 and 2016 and I felt like by the end of 2016, I was playing really well,” he said.
“So in 2017, I felt very ready to have a really good year. I felt very ready to win a tournament again, and it just so happened it was this one.
“I think it just proved to myself that I was sort of back where I wanted to be, and I think that gave me a lot of confidence.
“Fast forward a year, I've had the best year of my life, and 2018 was just proof it wasn't going to not happen again.”
Updated: January 15, 2020 04:48 PM