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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

Tommy Fleetwood keeps alive Race to Dubai title bid aided by a 'nothing to lose' mentality

Englishman needs victory in final stop on this season’s European Tour to overtake Francesco Molinari and keep hold of Race to Dubai crown

On Friday, Tommy Fleetwood kept alive his chances of retaining the Race to Dubai title with a stellar 67 at the DP World Tour Championship.

Not surprisingly, he was suitably excited for what the weekend may bring.

“It’s the best, isn’t it?” said the reigning European No 1, after a second successive bogey-free round carried him to 8-under, just three off halfway leader Matt Wallace.

As is well documented, Fleetwood needs victory in the final stop on this season’s European Tour to overtake Francesco Molinari, his good friend who resides atop the yearlong standings, and keep hold of the Race to Dubai crown.

Even still, Molinari must finish outside the top five, a quest that was helped somewhat on Friday when the Italian carded a 1-over par 71. As it is, Molinari sits on 3-under, back in a tie for 27th.

Boasting around one million points more than his mate, Molinari remains in the Race driving seat. Although Fleetwood's form will have him food for thought.

“Out of all the players that have a tour card at the start of the year, out of all the tournaments that are played, I still have a chance of winning the Race to Dubai with two days left,” Fleetwood beamed. “You’ve come a long way now, so it’s something to be very proud of.

“I might shoot a poor score tomorrow and I’ll be out, but I’ve lasted this long and I might still be going right to the very end. These are experiences you want, and hard work pays off and not everybody gets the chance. So remember how lucky you are to be playing for it and just go out and enjoy it.

"At the end of the day I’ve got nothing to lose. I feel the nerves like anybody; I’m playing for a massive, massive prize. But if I don’t win, I didn’t start off with the Race to Dubai in my hands.

So just keep thinking of it that way and, hopefully, there’s two days left and, at the end of those two days, I might still be smiling.”

There are a few who would happily dampen the mood, though. Three ahead of Fleetwood after a superb 65 on Friday, Wallace is seeking a fourth win on tour this season. The Englishman enjoys a one-shot lead from 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett, Jordan Smith and Adrian Otaegui, while the current occupier of the Green Jacket, Patrick Reed, is one further back in solo fifth.

Then comes four-time major champion Rory McIlroy, a two-time winner of the tournament, one of four guys including Fleetwood on 8-under. Just behind, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia.

Evidently, it remains a tall order for Fleetwood. And he’s acutely aware of what’s at stake.

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Read more:

DP World Tour Championship: Here are the pairings and tee times for the third round on Saturday

Jokes about wildlife aside – Rory McIlroy is back on the hunt at DP World Tour Championship

In pictures: Riveting action on the second day of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai

Rory McIlroy determined to revive 'B-minus' season at the DP World Tour Championship

Race to Dubai: All you need to know about 2018 DP World Tour Championship

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Francesco Molinari is still in the driver's seat, or thereabouts, in the Race to Dubai. Getty Images
Francesco Molinari is still in the driver's seat, or thereabouts, in the Race to Dubai. Getty Images

“Every shot seems very important,” he said. “It's just a completely different feeling to any other week of the year. All your senses are a little bit heightened and every shot means that little bit more because it all comes down to this.

"And again, from a tournament perspective, 72 holes is a long time, but it's a very short period of time that we've got left now in the grand scheme of the year. It's difficult, but the important thing yesterday was to make sure I still had a chance at the end of the day. The important thing today: make sure you have a chance at the end of today. We've still done that, so we'll just be happy with it.

“It's still only Day 2, and in terms of the golf tournament, leaderboards mean nothing but you can't help but look at them in the moment when you know what you have to do.

"It's a challenge, but it's one that I think every other player would kindly accept. You've got to enjoy that. That's the reason why we do it and they are massive, massive learning experiences. As difficult as it is, it's still very enjoyable.”