Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 16 December 2019

DP World Tour Championship: Tommy Fleetwood hopes past experience will see him over the line in Dubai

The world No 10 won his first tournament in 22 months last week in South Africa, putting himself in position to be crowned Race to Dubai champion if he finishes third or better at Jumeirah Golf Estates

Fresh from a first victory in 22 months, Tommy Fleetwood suddenly finds himself right in the thick of things for a second Race to Dubai crown in three years.

The Englishman won in South Africa on Sunday, ending a hugely consistent period of play that somewhat incongruously did not feature a win, anywhere in the world.

In fact, his previous triumph came at last year’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA, when he successfully defended the Falcon Trophy, and in some style too.

Now, Fleetwood’s got a grander prize in his sights. The play-off victory at the Nedbank Golf Challenge hoisted him to second in the season-long standings with one event to play.

Going into this week’s DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, the Ryder Cup star sits 722 points behind Bernd Wiesberger, knowing a solo third or better gives him a chance to land another European No 1 gong.

As the only one of the five contenders to have been there, done it – he also went close last year before finishing third – Fleetwood looms large.

“I consider myself lucky that I have got a lot of experience,” he said. “This is my third year in a row where I'm one of those players that have a chance to win the Race to Dubai. It's very special.

"There's only a certain number of people that have the Race to Dubai on their resume. I'm lucky to be one of them and I think it's one of my greatest achievements.”

As Fleetwood noted, he has experienced both sides. Elation in 2017, when he just about got over the line ahead of Justin Rose. Exasperation 12 months ago, although that was tempered a little by close friend Francesco Molinari pipping him to the post.

Still, that disappointment could drive him this week.

“Obviously in 2017 when I won, I led for such a long time,” Fleetwood said. “In 2018, I set out and it was never a goal at the start of the year to win the Race to Dubai. And all of a sudden just because it was a possibility it became something that really hurt when I didn't. But realistically, I'd not thought about it all year until the last few events that I had a chance.

“It's important this year that I take those experiences into it and know that it still takes a lot to do it and it's not in my hands at all. I can only do my best this week, take one shot at a time.

"At the end of it, whether I do well or not, I'm not going to be too hard on myself. It will be an amazing thing to do, but it's not something that I'm going to push hard for or consume myself with it.”

That said, the DP World Tour Championship hasn’t been too kind to him, given his talent. In six appearances at Jumeirah Golf Estates, Fleetwood has one top-10 finish. The past two years, as he’s vaulted through the world rankings – he currently strands 10th – he has finished tied-16th and tied-21st.

Saying that, he hadn’t exactly mastered Abu Dhabi’s National Course before breaking through.

“It's just one of those things where I haven't had amazing results at the event. I do believe in horses for courses, but before I won for the first time in Abu Dhabi, I missed the cut five out of six times and before I won in France, I missed the cut every single time and I missed the cut the year after. It doesn't always follow that.

“Each time I've played in this event, I've been in a completely different situation where the year is or where my career is. And I know and understand that it's easy to get ahead of yourself, and it's the 50 best players of the year playing this event.

“You have to play extremely, extremely well against all these players to find yourself in contention. If you don't, you're not going to be there.

“I'm not too worried. But I would love to play well. I've played well enough in the past, but just haven't put it all together. Maybe this time.”

Updated: November 19, 2019 02:25 PM

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