Fleetwood admits retaining Race to Dubai crown will be tough
The Englishman trails Ryder Cup team-mate Francesco Molinari by more than a million points.
Tommy Fleetwood admits he faces a “massively tall order” to overhaul Ryder Cup partner Francesco Molinari and win the Race to Dubai for the second year in succession.
Fleetwood trails Open champion Molinari by more than a million points and needs to win the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai to have a chance of being crowned European number one again.
And even that would not be enough if the other half of the ‘Moliwood’ pair, who became the first European duo to win all four matches together at Le Golf National, finishes inside the top five at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
“It’s nice to have a chance, as little as it is, but it’s a massively tall order,” Fleetwood said. “It’s a very good thing that we’ll be teeing off on Thursday together. 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.
“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. We’ve literally never mentioned it until last week and then we made a couple of jokes about it. He’ll say it’s in my hands and I’ll say it’s in his. That’s just how it will be.”
Fleetwood was in Molinari’s position last year and almost lost out to Justin Rose, who led by a shot with seven holes to play in pursuit of a third straight win which would have given him the title.
Rose bogeyed three of the next five holes and was left needing to eagle the 18th to overhaul Fleetwood, but his long-range attempt slid by and the title was Fleetwood’s by just 58,821 points.
“Last year I didn’t really do a great job of leading and handling it and I think there was a massive focus on Race to Dubai,” Fleetwood added. “This year I can just concentrate on the tournament and what we need to do to win that.
“There’s a bigger element of freedom because that’s just the way it is. Unless I had a three-shot lead going into the back nine on Sunday, I can’t really lose anything. I either win or I don’t, and that’s pretty black and white this week.”
Even if Fleetwood cannot deny Molinari the title, the 27-year-old has still enjoyed a superbly consistent season featuring a successful title defence in Abu Dhabi, two runners-up finishes – one of which was after a closing 63 in the US Open – and eight other top 10s.
“I think this year for sure has been better than last year,” the world number 10 said. “I haven’t won as much, but it’s been better. I said it a couple of times when I finished last year, the number one thing was trying to kick on.
“So many things have improved this year. I have a PGA Tour card for the first time and got to the final event (Tour Championship) this year. I’ve still got a chance of winning the Race to Dubai, I’m doing better in majors and my world ranking has gone up.
“I’ve kind of kicked on like I’ve wanted to, but there’s still a lot more that I can do better. It’s very satisfying that it’s worked out, but we’re still nowhere near satisfied.”