Tommy Fleetwood arrives at Jumeirah Golf Estates for the 11th edition of the DP World Tour Championship, which gets underway on Thursday, and, for the third consecutive year, he has a chance to win the Race to Dubai. But the Englishman insists he won’t be putting too much pressure on himself.
The 28 year old lifted the Harry Vardon Trophy back in 2017 and, after ending a 22-month wait for a fifth European Tour title at last week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge to move into second place behind leader Bernd Wiesberger in the Race to Dubai Rankings, he can repeat the feat if other results go his way this week.
“I consider myself lucky that I’ve got a lot of experience of being in this position,” said Fleetwood, who is just 723 points behind Wiesberger in the Rankings, with 2,000 points up for grabs for the winner this week. “This is my third year in a row where I’m one of those players that has a chance to win the Race to Dubai.
“It’s very special. There are only a certain number of people that have the Race to Dubai on their resumé. I’m lucky to be one of them and I think it’s one of my greatest achievements.”
While the Englishman came out on top in 2017, beating fellow countryman Justin Rose to the punch, he missed out 12 months ago as Ryder Cup playing partner Francesco Molinari scooped Race to Dubai honours.
“I’ve experienced both sides,” he continued. “Obviously in 2017 when I won, I led it for such a long time. In 2018, I set out and it was never a goal at the start of the year to win the Race to Dubai and all of a sudden just because it was a possibility it became something that really hurt when I didn’t win. But realistically, I hadn’t thought about it all year until the last few events when I had a chance.”
His play-off victory over Marcus Kinhult at the Gary Player Country Club in Sun City last week was his first win since the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA and if he were to prevail over the Earth course this week, with Wiesberger finishing lower than solo second, he would become only the third player, after Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson, to win the Race to Dubai more than once. But he is determined to focus on playing his best golf rather than thinking about results.
“I just think it’s important this year that I take the experiences of 2017 and 2018 into it and know that it still takes a lot to do it and it’s not in my hands at all,” he said. “I can only do my best this week, take one shot at a time. At the end of it, whether I do well or not, I’m not going to be too hard on myself. It will be an amazing thing to do but it’s not something that I’m going to push hard for or consume myself with it.
“I’m just going to enjoy this week and do the things that I’ve done so well to get in contention again.”
With a bumper winner’s cheque of US$3 million – the largest first prize in world golf – along with an additional US$2 million for the winner of the Race to Dubai the financial stakes are also high this week. But with the top 50 players on this season’s European Tour all out for glory too, Fleetwood, whose best result at Jumeirah Golf Estates was in 2016 when he finished ninth, is typically pragmatic about what he needs to do to take the spoils on Sunday afternoon.
“You have to play extremely well against all these players to find yourself in contention,” he said. “If you don’t, you’re not going to be there, and that’s it, really. You can only try your best. It’s been a long year!”