Reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood admits that it’s a ‘tall order’ as he attempts to retain his title as European Number One at this week’s DP World Tour Championship, Dubai by usurping close friend Francesco Molinari at the top of the Rankings.
The Englishman needs to win the European Tour’s season-ending event and hopes that Molinari finishes lower than fifth place in order for that to happen.
“The maths are pretty clear,” said the 27-year-old. “It’s in Frans’ hands, but it’s another week, another start, where I’m hopefully going to be up there on Sunday. I’ve just got to focus on this tournament. Focus on what we have to do to win, and move on from there.
“It’s a massively tall order, but at the same time, if we had teed off on the first hole in Hong Kong last year, which is the first event of the year, and they said, ‘look, you need to win last the tournament (to have a chance to win the Race to Dubai) – if you actually read out the full scenario – I’m pretty sure you’d say, ‘yeah, okay, I’ll give it a go from there’.
Fleetwood and Molinari are famously great friends away from the course and the pair formed a devastating partnership at Le Golf National as they blew away all comers from Team USA, winning each of the four matches they played together. With such a close bond, the two, who will be teeing off together in the final group at 12.40 on Thursday, have been unable to resist some playful banter about the battle for the Number One spot that awaits at Jumeirah Golf Estates this week.
“There was a little bit last week, but it was the first time I had really spoken about it,” said Fleetwood. “All of a sudden it’s come down to just the two of us that can win it (the Race to Dubai).
“We’ve literally never mentioned it until last week but since then we’ve made a few jokes about it. It’s funny, he’ll say it’s in my hands and I’ll say it’s in his. That’s just how it will be!”
Fleetwood has enjoyed another solid season, winning in his first outing of the year by defending his Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship crown and racking up a further seven top ten finishes including runner-up at the US Open. But Molinari has proved a formidable front-runner this season with a victory at the BMW PGA Championship and a maiden Major title at The Open Championship bookending a runner-up spot on home soil in the Italian Open. Fleetwood revealed that if he comes up short in his ‘mission impossible’ this week, there is nobody he would rather see lift the Harry Vardon Trophy for winning the Race to Dubai than his good friend and Ryder Cup partner.
“It’s a very good thing that we’ll be teeing off on Thursday together and that we both have a chance to win the Race to Dubai,” he said. “It’s great for us as friends. You’re going out there with the person that you’re closest with on Tour, trying to win the biggest prize that we play for.
“So it’s a nice thing and if it doesn’t work out for me, I couldn’t be happier for him for what he’s achieved this year.”
Meanwhile, the DP World Tour Championship tournament week got underway with the Rolex Pro-Am on Tuesday where the Luckiest Ball on Earth Team of Fatima Rizvi, Shiba Wahid Khan and Warren Todd, along with pro Ross Fisher, was triumphant in the morning shotgun. The amateurs, consisting of one junior, one lady and one man, all secured their places through the Luckiest Ball on Earth series which saw over 1,300 UAE golfers compete in over 21 events in 21 clubs to gain a spot in the Pro-Am.
The DP World Tour Championship takes place at Jumeirah Golf Estates from Thursday 15 to Sunday 18 November. Admission for spectators is free of charge.