Francesco Molinari is hoping to round off a “dream season” by clinching the 2018 Race to Dubai crown at this week’s DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, the eighth and final Rolex Series event of the season.
Molinari enters the final week of the campaign 1,025,166 points clear of the 2017 Race to Dubai Champion Tommy Fleetwood, following a stellar year during which he became the first Italian Major champion in history by claiming the Open Championship at Carnoustie.
He soon followed that with a remarkable performance at The Ryder Cup in September – sealing five points out of five and becoming a household name in process – and now the 36 year old is targeting more history as he aims to become the first Italian player to be crowned European Tour Number One.
Jon Rahm, meanwhile, returns to Jumeirah Golf Estates having claimed the season-ending title in swashbuckling fashion last year and were he to be successful in his title defence, he would become the first three-time Rolex Series winner.
Francesco Molinari: “It feels incredible to be here as Race to Dubai leader – it’s a new position for me. I’ve never been here in the past.
“I think obviously it’s just a consequence and a sign of an incredible season. I would have never guessed that I would be here in this position if you told me in April or May this year, but it’s been an incredible summer, topped by an unbelievable Ryder Cup.
“Really, it’s a dream season for me, and it’s nice to be here in this position. Hopefully I’ll be able to close it out. I know it’s not going to be easy, and I’m not making any assumptions, but I’ll do my best on the course to do the job.
“There are a few events that we target every year. It’s great for us to have the opportunity to play in such special tournaments, and yet we need to give the European Tour thanks for giving us the opportunity.
“Especially for guys like me, playing a home event in Italy that is part of the Rolex Series, just gives a completely new meaning to the Italian Open and to being there. Seeing some of the top guys competing in your own country – I’m sure it’s the same for guys France and Ireland and Scotland and the other countries where the Rolex Series are staged.
“I think this is obviously even more special, being the last event of the season. All the best players in the Race to Dubai are here, and it’s an incredibly competitive field. So it’s going to be tough. It’s never going to be easy when you have these kind of players here, and hopefully I can play good enough golf to have a chance on Sunday.”
Jon Rahm: “It feels good to be back. It will be hard to improve on what I did last year, but it feels great. I was able to be defending champion for three events this year. In Torrey Pines, I played great the first two days, I was in the final group but I didn’t play great on the weekend.
“In Ireland, I was doing okay until that second hole, a triple-bogey doesn’t help, but I still battled back and almost got myself into the playoff. So hopefully, I’ve gotten close and maybe this progression continues and I’m able to defend this week.
“I think I just happened to play good in all of the Rolex Series events. For the most part, when I think about the year, I played those events and I peaked in those events, the ones that matter to me. Clearly I’m doing something right, if I finished Top 15 in all of them and won twice, so hopefully I can keep that going this week and have a chance to win again on Sunday.”