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Tommy Fleetwood says he has to regain his "magic touch" to halt his alarming slide down the world rankings.
Fleetwood admits 2021 was a virtual write-off, with a runner-up finish at the Italian Open a rare highlight. He was a consistent fixture in the world's top 10 around the time of his starring role at the 2018 Ryder Cup, alongside 'Moliwood' partner Francesco Molinari – who he formed one of the great partnerships with – but is now down at 41st.
Fleetwood has not won since the 2019 Nedbank Challenge in South Africa, and as he prepared to launch his 2022 campaign in Abu Dhabi – where he is a two-time winner – the Southport golfer delivered a brutal assessment of his efforts last year.
Speaking ahead of this week's Abu Dhabi Championship, Fleetwood said: "I just didn't play well enough. I was very rarely at a tournament where I felt very confident with my game or where all parts of my game were at. I lacked rhythm throughout the year.
"The bottom line is that last year was tough. I never played well. Didn't drive it well. When I was missing that, I found the game particularly hard. I think every week you get to a golf tournament, there are players who are making the game look easy, and there are players who are really struggling.
"In simple terms, you want to be one of the guys making it look easy more often than not, and it's not always like that. I think I had a year where I was finding it difficult, like I said, I just never had my swing. I struggled off the tee, which for me has always been a massive source of confidence and where I've broken courses down and built scores in the past."
Searching for positives...
But Fleetwood says it was not all gloom and doom, and the magic is not far away. He added: "When I look back at the year, there were actually parts and areas in my game that were stronger than I thought, which is comforting. I just need to address the areas that I wasn't as good at.
"Like I go back to before, the standard is getting higher all the time, and if you sort of drop off, it feels worse than what it is quite a lot of the time. It is the same in all sports. You just search for that magic answer on a daily basis and a weekly basis, and I think if you consistently work on the right things, and you do it well enough, then you'll get to where you want to be.
"But there's no getting away from it, last year was tough. There's no sort of easy courses or easy tournaments these days, so you have to be at your very best to do well."
David brings a wealth of experience to Golf Monthly as a freelance contributor having spent more than two decades covering the game as The Sun's golf correspondent. Prior to that, he worked as a sports reporter for the Daily Mail. David has covered the last 12 Ryder Cups and every Masters tournament since 1999. A popular and highly-respected name in the press tents around the world, David has built close relationships with many of the game's leading players and officials.
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