Fleetwood says 2017 is his 'biggest' year ahead of the DP World Tour

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Fleetwood leads the European Tour and the Race to Dubai.

It has been a seminal year for Tommy Fleetwood as he looks set to end the campaign as Race to Dubai champion and European No1 at the DP World Tour Championship.

The Englishman took the lead in the European Tour standings after winning in Abu Dhabi in January and has remained in pole position for much of the season, with a second place finish at World Golf Championship and victory at the French Open in July.

With Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia still hot on his tail for the Race to Dubai title, the 26-year-old remains relaxed as he goes into the biggest tournament of his career.

“I don’t want to say like a breakout year, because you don’t know what happens after it, but it’s been the biggest year of my career by a long way,” said Fleetwood.

“I think the goal at the start of the year was to win again. I hadn’t won in three years, whatever it was.

“It’s been like a year of sort of felt like I was reassessing for the first six months because I was on a roll and I just kept having brilliant results.”

The Southport native did have a chance to secure the race last weekend at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa but had to settle for 10th place – with Branden Grace sealing victory on home soil.

Still, Fleetwood will be crowned No1 irrespective of his placing if Rose finishes outside the top five and Garcia fails to win.

“It’s very special to get to The Race to Dubai, you know, the final event, and be playing to win The Race to Dubai. Something I’ve never been done before. I’ve never been close, and it’s something that I didn’t expect to be doing this year,” said Fleetwood.

“I mean, whatever happens, I’ve never done this before, and it will have been a brilliant experience no matter what. I obviously clearly want to win. Don’t know how many chances you’re going to get in your career to do it.

“I think it would have to be that my game can stand up with the best players in the world in the biggest tournaments.”

Fleetwood may only have one top 10 finish in four appearances at Jumeirah Golf Estates – a ninth place finish in 2016 being his best to date – but is relishing the prospect of stepping out for the final 72 holes of a memorable season regardless of whether he lifts the coveted title or not.

“It’s actually an amazing opportunity and it’s a massive privilege to be able to actually be playing,” he said.

“I’m turning up tomorrow, final event of the year and I’m playing with Justin Rose trying to win a Race to Dubai. Sergio could win it, as well. Sergio, Justin Rose and then me; that’s pretty cool, that.”

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Rose looks to seal Race to Dubai title

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Justin Rose needs a top-six finish to have any hope of winning the title.

It has been ten years since Justin Rose last lifted the Race to Dubai title after a stunning play-off win against Ernie Els at Valderrama and the Englishman hoping history will repeat itself once again.

The 2013 US Open winner was 27 at the time and now over a decade on in his illustrious career, he finds himself in a similar position as he attempts to chase down Tommy Fleetwood’s commanding lead at the top of the Race to Dubai standings.

With 250,000 points separating Rose from the summit of the rankings, the 37-year-old needs a top six finish to have any hope of sealing a second Order of Merit title.

Speaking ahead of the DP World Tour Championship, Rose said; “I think mathematically, Valderrama in 2007, I could have maybe finished second or third, but went ahead and won the tournament. It’s probably something fairly similar this week.”

“But at the end of the day, for me it’s about – to win The Race to Dubai, I have to contend in this tournament one way or another. I need to finish towards the top end of the leaderboard, and if you’re going to finish at the top end of the leaderboard, you may as well focus on trying to win the tournament,” he added.

“The objective is quite simple and quite clear from that point of view. But like I said, it’s Wednesday; it’s too early to think about winning. Thursday is too early to think about winning. Friday is too early to think about winning.”

It’s been a stellar end to the season for Rose since his defeat in the Masters play-off to Sergio Garica – with back-to-back wins in China and Turkey – and has risen to sixth in the global rankings.

The Birkendale native and his swing coach Sean Foley have done plenty of work over the summer as they looked to rectify some minor putting issues that curtailed his game earlier in the season.

“There’s been a lot of work in a lot of areas of my game, but putting, absolutely. Putting is often what translates from decent golf into winning,” said Rose.

The 2013 US Open winner last won the Race to Dubai title ten years back.

The 2013 US Open winner last won the Race to Dubai title ten years back.

“If I look back at China and Turkey, I would say I putted really well. Putted very solidly from inside six feet. Didn’t give away too many cheap shots there, and then making more 20-footers.”

“I think I focus now a lot more on the skill of putting rather than the technique of putting. By that, I mean green reading, and then just sort of doing performance drills on the putting green, rather than constant stroke work. So I think that my putting feels a lot more simple in my head.”

In theory, there are three players in the running to win the Race to Dubai title, despite Sergio Garcia previously saying he has only a two per cent chance of being crowned champion.

The Spaniard would have to win in Dubai and Fleetwood and Rose to finish among the back markers – something that looks unlikely with their recent strong run of form.

Still, Rose believes fortunes fall in Fleetwood’s favour as both men are set to duel for the European No1 spot.

“I still take Tommy’s chances. You know, I think that any time you have — there’s no givens in golf. Like I said, his lead is significant. It means I’ve got to play well,” said Rose.

“All I wanted to come in here thinking was that if I win, I didn’t want to be too far behind Tommy; that if he finished second, I still couldn’t win. So in some ways controlling my destiny from that point of view is important to me.”

“I think I can just focus on playing good golf and get to the top of the leaderboard. That’s as simple as I’m trying to keep it this week.”

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Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia and others to watch out for at DP World Tour Championship

Sport360 staff 15/11/2017

The Race to Dubai will come to an end at Jumeirah Golf Estates where the DP World Tour Championship is going to take place this weekend.

And here's a look at the ones to watch out for as the European Tour season comes to a conclusion.

JUSTIN ROSE

Back-to-back victories at the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Open have kept Fleetwood in check and Rose sat out the Nedbank Challenge to get himself sufficiently rested and recuperated for this weekend. It backfired to a certain degree as Fleetwood’s 10th place in South Africa saw him extend his lead but Rose will be more than confident he can hunt his countryman down. The 37-year-old will also harbour a desire to succeed in this tournament having twice finished runner-up in 2012 and 2014. Justin Rose Justin Rose TOMMY FLEETWOOD Fleetwood’s year began with a brilliant victory in Abu Dhabi and he’s enjoyed an outstanding year since – highlighted by his commanding position at the top of the rankings. The 26-year-old also won the Open de France and claimed 10 top-10 finishes, including fourth at the US Open – his best finish in a major. It’s easily been his best year on tour and while he’d be forgiven for a few nerves to kick in this weekend, he knows his fate in his own hands, and he has some form at this tournament having finished ninth last year. Tommy Fleetwood Tommy Fleetwood SERGIO GARCIA What a year it’s been for the Spaniard and to finish it as European golf’s No1 player would have more than an air of symbolism. Garcia needs something spectacular and for Fleetwood and Rose to fail considerably but this is a city where he has already won this year – at the Desert Classic – and won’t maybe carry the same burden of expectation as the two men above him in the standings. There has been an element of boom or bust, however, from the Masters champion with three victories and a runner-up against barely touching the top 30 in tournaments. Sergio Garcia Sergio Garcia ROSS FISHER Fisher banished memories of a disappointing summer by twice finishing in the top two over a fortnight last month at the Alfred Dunhill Links and Italian Open. That $1m boost, added to an early spurt of form, has seen him compile more than $2.5m on the Race to Dubai – good enough to top his previous best calendar earnings on the European Tour in 2009. However, you’d have to go all the way back to March 2014 for his last European Tour victory and the 36-year-old will be smarting from his recent near misses. Ross Fisher Ross Fisher RAFA CABRERA-BELLO Garcia and Rahm may be the two Spaniards in the spotlight this year but count out Cabrera-Bello at your peril, who ended a fiveyear drought on the European Tour by clinching the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in July. In fact, the 33-year-old has been in generally superb form for a while now as at eighth, he was the highest-ranked Spaniard in last year’s Race to Dubai standings. He is also likely to be a central figure in the Ryder Cup next year – in a losing effort at Hazeltine in 2016, few Europeans impressed as much as Cabrera Bello, with 2.5 points from just three matches. Rafa Cabrera Bello Rafa Cabrera Bello ALEX NOREN When Noren gets hot, he stays hot, as his course-record final round of 62 in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth – having been seven shots off the pace at the start of the day – is up there with any of the most impressive feats in the sport this year. Unsurprisingly he has not kept up the form that led to him lifting five European Tour trophies within a 10-month span. Since Wentworth the 35-yearold’s best finish has been a tie for sixth, but his results have been solid enough to suggest he will be around the leading pack. Alex Noren Alex Noren JON RAHM A Dubai debut for the new kid on the block but it surely won’t be the last time we see the talented 23-year-old, whose shot-making ability and aggressive game can make a real impact. His outstanding start to the season has been mirrored on the PGA Tour where he closed out the FedEx Cup with four successive top-10s after a summer in which his white-hot form cooled. However, on the European Tour, since winning the Irish Open in July the best he’s recorded is a tie for 15th at the Italian Open. Jon Rahm Jon Rahm TYRRELL HATTON Just like countryman Rose he bagged consecutive titles this season to propel him up the standings and he will surely be a fixture at this tournament for many years to come. It’s been an impressive fightback for the 26-year-old as a run of five missed cuts over the summer threatened to derail his season. His last two appearances in Dubai have been a second place at this tournament last year and tied for third at the Desert Classic. He will know he’s not far away from being crowned champion here. Tyrrell Hatton Tyrrell Hatton BRANDEN GRACE The South African is the man in form heading on to the Earth course this week after delighting his home crowd and winning in Sun City last Sunday – in the same week he found out that his wife would be giving birth to a boy. Up to that point it had been a good season highlighted by one special round at The Open, where he became the first man to card a round of 62 in a Major. Even then the 29-year-old could only finish in sixth. Roundto-round consistency during tournaments has been a problem, but his peaks are very high indeed. Branden Grace Branden Grace FRANCESCO MOLINARI Molinari has continued to hop between the PGA and European Tour and while it’s greatly bolstered his wallet, victories have proven elusive. Five top-10 finishes on the PGA and an agonising second place at Wentworth are no small achievements but the Italian has yet to get over that last hump. Still, the 35-year-old has compiled enough money from just 12 tournaments to be currently sitting 10th in the Race to Dubai – can he end a long and travel-intensive season with a flourish at Jumeirah Golf Estates? Francesco Molinari Francesco Molinari

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