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Fleetwood on Brink of European Crown


The European Tour's grand finale, the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, is finally upon us and with more than 4 million points from an outstanding season, Race to Dubai leader Tommy Fleetwood has the golden opportunity of capturing his first European golf crown at the relatively tender age of 26.

And yes, the fact that the win that set up his best season ever came on the Tour's desert swing (he beat World No 1 Dustin Johnson in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship in January of a year that also saw him win the French Open and take 4th place at the US Open) might also end well in the desert, this time at Dubai's Greg Norman-designed Earth Course at the luxurious Jumeirah Golf Estate.

Just how good are the long-haired English young gun's chances? I would say pretty good because as things stood heading for Thursday's tee-off, only two men in the Race could still catch him - fellow Englishman, Justin Rose, the reigning Olympic champion, and Spanish contender Sergio Garcia, the current Masters Champion.

And of these two, only Rose, thanks to his late-season charge and brilliant back-to-back, come-from-behind, Race to Dubai victories in China and Turkey during the past three weeks, would seem to have a realistic chance of doing that.

To claim the European Crown for the first time, Garcia needs to win on Sunday and see Fleetwood finish outside of the top 20 and Rose in a worse position than 4th place.

This option is not totally out of the question, but if it comes off, it would be viewed as the most sensational turn-around triumph in Race to Dubai history.

The chances of Fleetwood being reeled in by Rose, at 6/1 the British bookmakers hot favourite to win the Jumeraih tournament as opposed to Garcia at 11/1, Jon Rahm at 12/1, Branden Grace at 14/1 and Fleetwood at 22/1, and of seeing the Race To Dubai crown being snatched away by Rose are, however, much greater.

As long as Fleetwood doesn't win or tie with the 37-year-old Englishman, finishing alone in second place behind any other player would be good enough to secure a second European Crown for Rose following his memorable win at the Volvo Masters at Valderrama in 2007 when he edged past Ernie Els to top the European Tour's Order of Merit.

Fleetwood's task, meanwhile, is pretty straightforward. As long as Rose doesn't finish ahead of him in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will be able to carry off the large and imposing Race to Dubai trophy for the first time.

Fleetwood said this week that he was not feeling pressurised. "In fact, It (his situation) is pretty special. It's not a burden. I don't feel stressed about it. I don't feel anxious. I just think it's great that I've got the chance to win it - and a good chance too."

But pressure there will surely be. The inform Rose and Garcia should see to that. Expect the respective runner-up and winner at this year's Masters, to be running hot when they tee off in this week's shoot-out after capturing some of Europe's most sought-after titles in recent weeks - and this followed by breaks of one or two weeks to refresh their appetites for winning.

The quality field could also heighten the challenging task ahead of Fleetwood.

For one thing, it includes another hot-shot in Rahm, the big-hitting young Spanish rookie who has taken the golfing world by storm and with the help of big wins on either side of the Atlantic Ocean, he has rocketed out of the 100s into the No 5 spot on the World Rankings list in less than a year.

And what about South Africa's Branden Grace? Only last week he blasted his way out of his winless run this year to grab the title at the heavily-contested Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City.

And there are a host more who have the temperament and talent to win in Dubai this week, not the least of them being England's in-form Tyrrell Hattingh who in mid-October captured the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and the Italian Open back to back and other recent high-on-the-leaderboard golfers like Francesco Molinari of Italy, Irelands Shane Lowry, England's Ross Fisher, Spain's Rafael Cabrera Bello, Germanys Martin Kaymer, South Africa's Charl Schwartzel and surprise US visitor Patrick Reed.

Sure the Race to Dubai crown is a bridge too far for them, but don't count out any of them as possible winners of the DP World Tour championship.

The weather? Our boffins see plenty of sunshine ahead with not enough rain or wind to make any significant difference.

On the other hand, on another long course which stretches 7,675 yards and has wide fairways, power off the tees and fairways could be right up the ally of big bangers like Rahm and Belgium's Thomas Pieters.

In the end though, most of the tournament's drama this week could well be built around the three-man battle for the golfing crown of Europe - and their hopes of adding their names to an imposing winners list that includes this year's defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick (2016), Rory McIroy (2015 and 2012) and Henrik Stenson (2014 and 2013) who are both out of action this week due to injury, Alavro Quiros (2011), Robert Karlsson (2010) and Lee Westwood, the inaugural Race to Dubaiu winner in 2009.

(Tuesday am, Nov 14, 2017)

Justin Rose 6/1
Sergio Garcia 11/1
Jon Rahm 12/1
Branden Grace 14/1
Tyrrell Hatton 16/1
Matthew Fitzpatrick 16/1
Francesco Molinari 20/1
Tommy Fleetwood 22/1
Victor Dubuisson 20/1
Charl Schwartzel 22/1
Shane Lowry 28/1
Rafael Cabrera Bello 33/1
Alex Noren 40/1
Patrick Reed 35/1
Thorbjorn Olesen 33/1
Ross Fisher 35/1
Martin Kaymer 35/1
Joost Luiten 28/1
Bernd Wiesberger 40/1
Thomas Pieters 40/1
Peter Uihlein 50/1.

NOTE: For all the latest odds go to

(Top 20 on Nov 14, 2017)

1 Tommy Fleetwood Eng 4,235,987
2 Rose Justin Eng 3,979,250
3 Garcia Sergio Esp 3,184,582
4 Rahm Jon Esp 2,898,457
5 Hatton Tyrrell Eng 2,711,524
6 Fisher Ross Eng 2,540,992
7 Cabrera Bello Rafa Esp 2,400,948
8 Noren Alex Swe 2,180,262
9 Grace Branden Rsa 1,972,696
10 Molinari Francesco Ita 1,947,067
11 Mcilroy Rory Nir 1,832,091
12 Fitzpatrick Matthew Eng 1,765,856
13 Stenson Henrik Swe 1,763,945
14 Wiesberger Bernd Aut 1,751,005
15 Dunne Paul Irl 1,620,925
16 Pieters Thoma Bel 1,559,859
17 Li Haotong Chn 1,558,546
18 Uihlein Peter Usa 1,491,955
19 Levy Alexander Fra 1,362,170
20 Frittelli Dylan Rsa 1,322,106.

Neville Leck

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