Tommy Fleetwood became the sixth Englishman to win the European Tour’s money list as he just did enough to keep Justin Rose off the Race to Dubai title.
There was two wins and 10 tops 10s that contributed to the 26-year-old’s triumph, but it’s hard to ignore the significance of how often Fleetwood played.
The world-number-19 played more times than anyone else in the Race to Dubai top 12, appearing in 24 events that all contributed to his total. Had Justin Rose turned out for more than his mere 12 events, or Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm their 13, or you feel the outcome may have been different.
With that said, nothing was handed to Fleetwood. His season started brightly with a top three at the UBS Hong Kong Open prior to Christmas and, after a five week hiatus, his first win of the campaign at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship where he saw off now-world-number-one Dustin Johnson by one shot.Embed from Getty Images
There followed two missed cuts on the European Tour’s desert swing but his comeback would perhaps include his biggest performance of the season. A solid but by no means outstanding tied 12th at the Maybank Championship was followed by his best ever finish at a World Golf Championship. At the WGC-Mexico Championship Fleetwood finished solo second one-shot behind Johnson who had since made it to world-number-one.
The foot came off the gas for a few weeks as Fleetwood managed a tied 10th, tied 39th and a missed cut (at his Masters debut) in his next three starts but would again come back strong, missing out on the Shenzhen International title by a play-off loss to Bernd Wiesberger.
More downtime saw a missed cut sandwiched between two PGA Tour appearances before the strongest stretch of Fleetwood’s season. In just his second US Open start, he finished in fourth, a respectable five shots off the lead.
Fleetwood went on to knock up at tied sixth at the BMW International Open and then travel to Le Golf National to win the Rolex Series’ HNA Open de France thanks to a final round 66. A tied 10th at another Rolex Series event, the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, left Fleetwood comfortably in the Race to Dubai driving seat.Embed from Getty Images
The chase on Fleetwood would amount from here as the leader managed just one top 10, a tied sixth at the Italian Open, in his next eight starts. In the final two events of this dry spell, the WGC-HSBC Champions and the Turkish Airlines Open, Rose would get to within 140,000 points of the lead from over 2,000,000 outside by claiming back-to-back wins.
With Rose sitting out the penultimate event of the season, Fleetwood had a chance to strengthen his lead at the Nedbank Golf Challenge; he did so with a tied 10th that took him back to over 250,000 points clear.
Hanging on by the skin of his teeth at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Fleetwood needed to better Rose’s result to hang on to top spot and be crowned Race to Dubai champion, or be close enough to him if Rose managed a top five.
Fleetwood’s defence of his lead was feeble as he fell to tied 21st, and all looked lost as Rose took a 54-hole lead at Jumeirah Golf Estates. Rose continued strong in the final round and made the turn with his lead still in tact. But three bogeys in five birdies, between the 12th and 16th, scuppered Rose’s charge in Europe and left Fleetwood as the European Tour’s number one.Embed from Getty Images
From what once seemed so comfortable, Fleetwood was pushed so close and ran out eventual Race to Dubai winner by under 60,000 points.