Tommy Fleetwood predicts ‘a bit of a mess’ as radical rule changes bite ahead of Abu Dhabi Championship

Tommy Fleetwood predicts 'a bit of a mess' as radical rule changes bite ahead of Abu Dhabi Championship

Lee Westwood is similarly bemused. “It looks weird,” the veteran said. “I’d probably find it a bit off-putting. To me, it makes the hole smaller. I suppose there’s a chance of it hitting the flag and going in and slowing it down, but there’s a chance of it bouncing out.”

But the statisticians insist it could be beneficial. Indeed, Dave Pelz, Phil Mickelson’s celebrated short-game guru, is adamant that “every player should leave the flag in”. One piece of data Pelz cites is that putts going nine feet past have a 188 per cent greater chance of dropping with flag in.

Fleetwood intends to try it regardless. “I don’t really have any science to it,” he said. “I know that there’s lip-outs that you can have that can catch a fraction of the pin that go in when they would otherwise be missing.

“But you can also hit the pin dead centre and it can jar out. I don’t  really know if there’s a formula for it. Until we’ve tried it, we won’t know. I’ll consult with my caddie each time and see how it goes for a few weeks.”

Who knows, maybe Fleetwood will convert a six-footer down the slope on the 18th with the flag left in on Saturday to join Tiger and the rest. The 27-year-old would certainly not be embarrassed to do so, against a field also boasting world No 3 Dustin Johnson.

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