Race To Dubai: Moliwood duel for the big prize

Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood
Molinari and Fleetwood have both enjoyed a spectacular 2018

The European Tour's Race to Dubai will be contested by two men who have enjoyed phenomenal seasons in both individual and team golf, but as Matthew Crist explains, it's not all about "Moliwood" at the DP World Tour Championship.

"It's perhaps fitting that the two players in contention for European golf's biggest prize have enjoyed probably the greatest season in each of their respective careers and will once again go head-to-head after a long and fruitful campaign."

Then there were two

Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood may be the best of friends, but when they take to the course this week all familiarities will be left in the clubhouse as they remain the only players in contention for the European Tour's season-long Race to Dubai title.

Heading into the season finale at The Jumeriah Golf Estates' Earth Course, only Molinari or Fleetwood can take the spoils after Lee Westwood's stunning eight-under-par 64 on the final day clinched the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa last week - his first victory on the European Tour for four years.

The emotional win was Westwood's 24th on the European Tour and his third at the Nedbank but the victory also ended the hopes of Haotong Li, Rory McIlroy and Lucas Bjerregaard having any mathematical chance of claiming the top prize; meaning there are now just two men left in the hunt.

Race to Dubai in Molinari's grasp

It's perhaps fitting that the two players vying to be crowned the European Tour's finest performer have enjoyed probably the greatest season in each of their respective careers and will once again go head-to-head after a long and fruitful campaign.

Francesco Molinari followed up his BMW Championship win at Wentworth back in May by winning the Open Championship at Carnoustie in July with his two shot victory ensuring he became the first Italian to lift the claret jug.

Meanwhile Southport's Tommy Fleetwood has enjoyed six top ten finishes on his way to becoming one of the top performers on both sides of the Atlantic in a year which has seen him rise to become one of the top ten players in the world.

And back in September the pair took maximum points on the first two days of the Ryder Cup which the European fans at Le Golf National in Paris lapped-up and earned the pair the moniker "Moliwood" thanks to their box office displays.

In reality, however, it's Molinari's to lose as he boasts a healthy lead of more than one million points in the standings, and the 36-year-old from Turin knows that only a Fleetwood victory and worse than a share of fifth place with one other player can stop him becoming the first Italian to win the European Tour's coveted year-long title.

Value may lie in the chasing pack

What with the distraction of the Race for Dubai title it's easy to overlook a number of other genuine contenders going into this weekend who may feel they have every chance of claiming their last win on the European Tour, especially with the absence of world number 2, Justin Rose, who is not competing despite having an outside chance of winning the title.

On the back of his win last week in South Africa Lee Westwood will be full of confidence and no doubt buoyed by his success in the South African sunshine could well be worth considering at an attractive 50.049/1 on the Betfair Exchange.

Another player enjoying something of a renaissance is Sergio Garcia who also tasted victory recently in the Andalucía Masters and could go well again here, currently sitting just behind tournament favourite Rory McIlroy who is 10.09/1 in the outright win market.

Meanwhile Haotong Li has finished in the top five in three of his last five starts on tour and the Chinese sensation will no doubt be looking to improve on his top 15 finish here 12 months ago having only narrowly missed out to Justin Rose in a play-off the Turkish Open.

But for this writer it's hard to overlook defending champion Jon Rahm at 13.012/1. The Spaniard capped off an amazing rookie season here in 2017 with a one-shot victory and the Spaniard arrives in Dubai in fine form with five top five finishes in his last 11 European Tour starts, with two wins this year as he hopes to ensure the season finale isn't just about the "Moliwood" matchup.

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