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.”
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Worldwide Golf and Sixteen10 celebrated yet another milestone with the DHL Swing Against Cancer Golf Series as the Mike Clark Golf Day raised an outstanding US$45,000 for the Friends of Cancer Patients Charity, bringing the total amount raised by the charity series this year to US$100,000, with the help of Liverpool icon Robbie Fowler, cricketer Ian Bell and Southampton star Matt Le Tissier at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
The event, which was the last final leg of the 2018 series, saw a full field of 92 golfers take to the stunning Fire course for a day of golfing action.
As well as being a memorable occasion for all, the event continued to honour the memory of Mike Clark, a former UAE resident and Jumeirah Golf Estates employee, who tragically passed away from cancer aged 30 on October 16, 2012, with all funds raised going directly to the treatment of four-year old Mohamed Sameer Abdullah, who was recently diagnosed with leukemia.
“We all know what we are here for and that’s to raise vital funds for Friends of Cancer Patients,” said Fowler, who is the sixth-highest goal scorer in Premier League history with 183 goals.
“We’ve had a great day full of laughs but the main goal is to raise as much money as possible for this fantastic cause. Everyone involved in setting up the series deserves a big pat on back for starting this amazing initiative. This isn’t just a one-off event, it’s been going on for a few years now so kudos to everyone involved.”
Le Tissier, who scored 47 out of 48 penalties for Southampton FC, added: “I came to Dubai earlier this year and played golf with one of the organisers who was telling me how amazing the DHL Swing Against Cancer Series was and invited me over for the Mike Clark Golf Day which I accepted immediately.
“It’s a superb event that has already raised bucket loads for Friends of Cancer Patients so hopefully we can raise just as much this year and help out little Mohammed who is going through a hard time right now.”
Started in 2017, the DHL Swing Against Cancer Golf Series has gone from strength to strength and has already seen many past and present stars of sports show their support including Harry Redknapp, Teddy Sheringham, Trevor Steven, Lee Sharpe, Gary McAllister, Dietmar Hamann (football); Mike Tindall (rugby) and Michael Campbell (golf).
Last year, the series also raised US$100,000 which has been matched with this year’s series after three events bringing the total raised to just over US$200,000 in two years and over US$325,000 since the first Mike Clark Golf Day in 2013.
The world’s top ranked golfers from the PGA and European Tours have once again signed up to the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA, which returns to the iconic Abu Dhabi Golf Club for the 14th consecutive year from January 16-19, 2019.
As part of the Rolex Series – the premium tournament category on the European Tour’s International Schedule – this year’s edition is to be one of the season’s unmissable events, with the prize fund increasing to $7million.
In what promises to be one of the most competitive line-ups to date, two-time reigning champion and Ryder Cup star Tommy Fleetwood will join world number three and 19-time PGA TOUR winner, Dustin Johnson, in returning to the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA.
History is at stake as Fleetwood bids to fight off his rivals to win the title for a record-equalling third year; a feat which has, so far, only been achieved by Martin Kaymer (2008, 2010, 2011).
No player has ever won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA three years in a row.
One of the most important initiatives in the European Tour’s history, the Rolex Series is the premium tournament category on the Tour’s International Schedule, elevating world class events into unmissable sporting occasions.
Comprising eight events in 2018, staged in a variety of iconic golfing locations around the world, the tournaments feature the biggest names in the sport.
Tournaments are part of the Rolex Series due to their quality, their prize fund and their ability to entertain golf fans like never before, both on the course as well as through television and on-line innovation.
HH Sheikh Nahyan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Sports Council, said: “We are once again thrilled to host the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA, the fourteenth time we have done so, but the first time as a top-tier Rolex Series event.
“Since its inauguration, the event has played an increasingly significant role in developing Abu Dhabi’s impressive sports portfolio and has now become one of the jewels in its crown. Residents and visitors have come to expect only the very best quality action as the top sports stars from all around the world continue to flow into Abu Dhabi to showcase their talent.
“Sport has a vital role to play in spreading awareness of what Abu Dhabi has to offer as a destination for tourism, culture and business, and 2019 will see this continue more strongly than ever.”