The final event of the 2018 European Tour season could come down to a showdown between the green jackets, which would suit Francesco Molinari just fine.
Reigning Master champion Patrick Reed and 2016 green jacket winner Danny Willett share a one-shot lead heading into the final round of the $8 million DP World Tour Championship, Dubai. They’re tied on 14 under, one shot ahead of England’s Jordan Smith.
Molinari has no realistic chance of winning. Neither does Tommy Fleetwood, and that means his Ryder Cup partner Molinari should succeed him as European No. 1.
Fleetwood has to win and hope Molinari finishes worse than fifth to become European No. 1 for a second straight year. Fleetwood lies joint 24th, eight shots behind the Masters duo. Molinari is nine shots off the pace in 28th.
“I feel the adrenaline might have gone now,” said Fleetwood, who returned a 2-over 74. “I think you kind of know when your time’s up. I lasted within two days of the season. Like I’ve said, it was a stretch trying to win it. But it is what it is. I’ll play tomorrow and we’ll see how we do, but it’s fine. I’m fine. Fit and healthy. I’ll play golf tomorrow and that’s it. I’ll go home and I’ll spend time with my son tonight. At the end of the day, it’s just golf.”
Willett hasn’t won since he slipped on golf’s ugliest, most coveted blazer. He lost his game, suffered injuries and is still trying to get back to the form that made him a major winner.
“It would be nice to win tomorrow but there’s a lot of golf left,” said Willet, who shot 68, 4 under. “A lot can happen in 18 holes. I’m just happy with the golf game. The golf game is in good shape. The body is feeling good, and like I’ve said, it’s been a long old year with all the stuff that’s gone on and for this to be the last event I’m going to play in this year with a field this good is a real bonus. Going to go out and try and play some good golf tomorrow.
“I think even if we weren’t in contention, just the way that we’ve worked and practiced these last three, four months and what I’ve taken from the range to the golf course and now it’s just each week, it’s felt a little bit better.”
Reed is also looking for his first win since acquiring the green jacket. He got to the top of the leaderboard with 5-under 67.
“It would mean a lot to win this tournament,” Reed said. “Just to be in the situation to be able to come over here and play, with the limited schedule that I play over here on the European Tour, and to have a chance to go out and finish the year off right and win a golf tournament, give myself a little early Christmas gift of a trophy, would be amazing.”