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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Francesco Molinari: Highlights of the Race to Dubai champion's historic season

Ryder Cup history and a first major title among the milestones in a remarkable year for the Italian

Francesco Molinari crowned the finest season of his career by winning the Race to Dubai, awarded to the European Tour's No 1 player, on Sunday.

Molinari, 36, claimed the title after defending champion Tommy Fleetwood failed to win the season-finale DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

Here we look at the highlights of Molinari's remarkable year.

BMW PGA Championship winner

Francesco Molinari after winning the BMW PGA Championship.Getty Images
Francesco Molinari after winning the BMW PGA Championship.Getty Images

Molinari clinched his first title of the season in May, and they don't come any more prestigious than the BMW PGA Championship - the European Tour's "Premier event".

The Italian won the tournament at Wentworth with a 17-under par 271, two shots ahead of nearest challenger Rory McIlroy. The €995,394 (Dh4.18m) winner's cheque went some way to cementing Molinari's status as a Race to Dubai contender.

First PGA Tour title

Molinari has been one of the leading players on the European Tour for much of his career, but he had to wait until July of this year for his PGA Tour title in the United States.

That came at the Quicken Loans National and in emphatic style, too. Molinari obliterated the field to win by eight shots - his 21-under 259 breaking the tournament record by seven shots.

British Open champion

Francesco Molinari with the Claret Jug after winning the 147th Open Championship. Getty Images
Francesco Molinari with the Claret Jug after winning the 147th Open Championship. Getty Images

Molinari's first PGA Tour win ignited a stunning run of summer form, and after a tied-second in his next outing at the John Deere Classic, the Italian made his way over to Scotland as one of the favourites for the British Open in July.

He certainly did not disappoint, emerging from a congested leaderboard to hold off Kevin Kisner, Justin Rose, Xander Schauffle and McIlroy to lift the Claret Jug by a two-shot margin at Carnoustie.

Molinari took charge of the Race to Dubai standings thanks to the €1,625,387 prize awarded to the Open's Champion Golfer of the Year. He also became the first Italian to win a major title.

Ryder Cup heroics

Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetywood after winning the Ryder Cup. AFP
Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetywood after winning the Ryder Cup. AFP

Molinari entered September's Ryder Cup at Le Golf National in France boasting a rather poor record in the team event: three matches played, two losses, one draw.

After eight years away from the tournament, Molinari returned with vengeance, leading Europe to a lop-sided win over the fancied Americans and becoming the first European player to claim a maximum five points.

His partnership with Fleetwood, coined "Moliwood", produced four points from their four matches together and became the enduring story of the tournament.

Race to Dubai winner

Such was Molinari's impressive season, which included a T6 at the US PGA Championship and a runner-up finish at the Italian Open, it was going to take something special for him not to win the Race to Dubai.

Fleetwood needed to win the DP World Tour Championship and hope Molinari finished outside the top five. As it transpired, Fleetwood finished T17, with Molinari nestled in the middle of the leaderboard at T26.

Molinari therefore claimed the title with ease, with a cushion of 1,328,170 points ahead of Patrick Reed, who finished runner-up at the DP World Tour Championship to leapfrog Fleetwood.

Molinari's reward for ending the year as Europe's top golfer is a cool US$1.25 million (Dh4.6m).

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Read more:

Humbled Francesco Molinari feeling 'incredible' to be crowned 2018 Race to Dubai champion

Danny Willett’s wait is over as Englishman ends title drought with DP World Tour Championship win

DP World Tour Championship: Shubhankar Sharma caps 'great year' with rookie award

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