Willett wins again as Molinari tops Race to Dubai
Dubai: Danny Willett made a triumphant return to the winner’s circle as Francesco Molinari was crowned Europe’s Number One on a dramatic final day of the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai – the eighth and final Rolex Series event of 2018.
Englishman Willett made three birdies in his last five holes to get to 18 under par, two shots clear of fellow Englishman Matt Wallace – who did enough to take a share of the Bonus Pool, finishing in tenth place in the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex – and reigning Masters Champion Patrick Reed, who took second place in the season-long rankings.
Willett made his Major breakthrough in April 2016 with victory in the Masters Tournament but when he arrived this week at Jumeirah Golf Estates that remained his last title after battling with injury and loss of form. He missed five of his first seven cuts this season but a tie for eighth at the Italian Open ignited his campaign and two more Rolex Series top tens followed before he claimed European Tour title number six on the Earth Course with a final round 68.
After a stellar season that included a first Major title at The Open, a Rolex Series victory at the BMW PGA Championship, and a record-breaking five points from five at The Ryder Cup, Molinari entered the week knowing that only a win for closest rival and great friend Tommy Fleetwood could deny him the Race to Dubai title. Despite finishing 12 shots off the lead, Fleetwood’s tie for 16th meant that Italy had its first European Number One.
Defending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai champion Jon Rahm finished in a tie for fourth place at 14 under par alongside fellow Spaniard Adrian Otaegui and Dean Burmester of South Africa.
Englishman Tom Lewis and Dylan Frittelli of South Africa were a shot further back, with another Masters winner in Sergio Garcia at 12 under par alongside two-time Rolex Series winner Alex Noren and Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat.
Meanwhile, India’s Shubhankar Sharma was confirmed as the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year, after a debut season that included two European Tour titles.
Danny Willett said: “Winning is a rarity on Tour, really. I’m pleased to have won the tournaments that I’ve won over the last few years. I’ve won some pretty big ones, and obviously Augusta is always going to be special. But this, coming back after everything that’s happened, this year, really, is going to go down in the history books for myself as one of the most pleasing.
“I kind of finished out those last five holes, six holes, having not been in that position for a long time. You never know if you’re going to be back in the position, and it’s nice that I got back in there and I handled it the way in which I did.
“Back end of ’16, beginning of ’17, we picked up a couple of bad injuries, and we were right in prime position to win The Race to Dubai. The golf game wasn’t in a good place and I didn’t really want to play golf. There were some great things going on in the golfing world, but I wasn’t in a position to where I was enjoying what I was doing, and I was in pain.
“Regardless of what would have happened today, I’m in a much better place than where I was, and I knew that things were going the right way and I was doing all the work possible to give myself chances to do this.”