TOMMY FLEETWOOD says trying to win the Race to Dubai and near £1million bonus is not as stressful as fighting to keep his Tour card.
The Southport golfer, who currently leads the European money list, faced that dreaded prospect this time last year.
And Fleetwood maintains compared to that, he is now enjoying life on “easy street”.
Fleetwood completed his first round at the £7.4m WGC-HSBC Champions event in China this morning.
He leads Spain’s Sergio Garcia by 790,000 points with this and three more events to go in the Race To Dubai following The Masters champion’s win at the Andalucia Masters last weekend.
But Fleetwood is looking forward to really splashing the cash, to make new-born son Franklin’s first Christmas one the family will never forget.
He said: “I was really happy for Sergio, regardless of how it influenced the Race to Dubai calculations, because I know how much that win meant to him.
“It was at his favourite course, Valderrama, he was playing in front of his Spanish fan club and his charity, the Sergio Garcia Foundation was hosting the event. How could you not root for him?”
That question tells you a lot about the unassuming Englishman, 26, who is heavily influenced by a slump that saw him crash out of the world’s top 50 to 188th just over a year ago.
He added: “You learn a lot about yourself when you’ve only made about £200,000 with only a few months of the season left.
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“I know it sounds a decent amount, but not when you’re struggling to hold on to your playing rights.
“To be honest, the panic only set in for a couple of weeks. Thankfully, I finished the year strong, with five top tens and a few top 20s in my last ten events of 2016.
“That was the platform for my great run this year — two massive wins, second to Dustin Johnson in a World Golf Championship event and fourth in the US Open to earn this big lead in the Race to Dubai standings.
“You really think trying to keep my nose in front compares to where I was in the middle of last year? That was a hard, old road — this is like walking with my head held high down the middle of easy street.
“So many good things have happened in the last year, especially my fiancee, Clare, giving birth to Franklin last month.
“Being there at the birth was the greatest moment of my life, and for the six or seven weeks I took off I hardly gave golf a thought.
“He is a real chip off the old block. He was born with a good head of hair, and it’s been growing fast ever since. It must run in the family!
“He doesn’t have a clue who I am, but that will change when we make it a Christmas to remember after the Race to Dubai is settled — especially if I have a nice bonus cheque.”
Fleetwood is back up to 19th in the world and eager to finish the year in style.
Although the £950,000 cheque for winning the Race to Dubai surely has his name on it.
His cause had been helped by the fact that Garcia will play only one more event — the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
And third place Jon Rahm will also take two weeks off after this weekend’s event in Shanghai.
Fleetwood will play all the events remaining on the European Tour schedule and none have a halfway cut, so he is certain to keep piling up the cash for the money list points.
But he refuses to accept he has the European No 1 spot sewn up.
He said: “You can look at it two ways: If Jon wins this week he could be breathing down my neck heading into Dubai.
“But if I win one in the next few weeks I’ll be practically out of sight.
“The bottom line is I’m taking nothing for granted. Ross Fisher and Tyrrell Hatton, who are fourth and fifth, have both been red hot recently, especially Tyrrell with his back-to-back wins.
“But I can make it safe by winning again, and that’s what I’m aiming for. It would be the perfect way to cap the best year of my life.”
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