Race to Dubai ti­tle in Fleet­wood’s hands

Packet & Times (Orillia) - - SPORTS - STEVE DOU­GLAS

The Race to Dubai has reached the home straight, and only three play­ers are still in the run­ning.

Tommy Fleet­wood, Justin Rose or Ser­gio Gar­cia will be Eu­rope’s No. 1 player for 2017 af­ter the fi­nal event of the sea­son on the Euro­pean Tour, this week’s DP World Tour Cham­pi­onship in Dubai.

Fleet­wood holds the lead by 256,737 points, but knows he will be over­taken if either of his two chal­lengers wins at Jumeirah Golf Es­tates.

“As much as it de­pends on what they do, it is in my hands,” said Fleet­wood, who has led the Race to Dubai stand­ings for most of the sea­son fol­low­ing his win in Abu Dhabi in Jan­uary. “I can take it out of ev­ery­body’s hands, but we’ll see. It’s great to be in this po­si­tion.”

The English­man would have clinched the sea­son ti­tle by win­ning the Ned­bank Golf Chal­lenge in Sun City last week, but fin­ished in 10th place.

Nei­ther Rose nor Gar­cia played in South Africa and should be fresher in Dubai, with Fleet­wood hav­ing played each of the fi­nal four events of the Euro­pean Tour’s sea­son — the WGC-HSBC Cham­pi­ons in Shang­hai, the Turk­ish Air­lines Open, the Ned­bank and the World Tour Cham­pi­onship.

“That’s go­ing to be key this week, es­pe­cially when you get to Sun­day,” said Rose, who won in China and Turkey to stay alive in the Race to Dubai. “It’s a long, gru­el­ing race ... it’s a lot on the body and it’s a lot on the sys­tem for the guys.

“So, I just felt like the week off, in my mind, could be valu­able.”

That might be an in­di­rect mes­sage to Fleet­wood, who took on his busy re­cent sched­ule on top of be­com­ing a fa­ther for the first time in Septem­ber.

“It’s not a bur­den. I don’t feel stressed about it. I don’t feel anx­ious,” Fleet­wood said of be­ing the man to top­ple this week. “I just think it’s great that I’ve got the chance to win it, and a good chance.”

Rose won the Race to Dubai ti­tle in 2007, un­der its pre­vi­ous guise as the Or­der of Merit when the rank­ings were based on prize money. It would be the first ti­tle for both Fleet­wood and Gar­cia, who has won the Dubai Desert Clas­sic, the Masters and the An­dalu­cia Valder­rama Masters.

Hen­rik Sten­son (2013, ’16) and Rory McIl­roy (2012, ’14, ’15) have won the ti­tle over the last five years.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILES

One of Tommy Fleet­wood, pic­tured, Justin Rose or Ser­gio Gar­cia will be Eu­rope’s No. 1 player for 2017 af­ter the fi­nal event of the Europen Tour sea­son this week­end in Dubai.

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