Tommy Fleetwood has been crowned Race to Dubai champion after Justin Rose endured an error-strewn back nine on the final day of the European Tour season at the DP World Tour Championship.
Rookie of the Year Jon Rahm emerged from the pack to become the only multiple winner of a Rolex Series tournament this season, while Rose’s bid to be European No.1 for the first time in 10 years came up short despite a poor closing round from Fleetwood.
Rose looked in complete control of the tournament, and was cruising at three under for the day after 11 holes, but he bogeyed three of the next five to slip out of the outright fourth-place position he needed to win the money list.
With Fleetwood looking on from the clubhouse after a two-over-par 74 left him out of the top 20 on 11 under, Rose needed to hole from the front fringe for eagle at the 72nd hole to snatch the Harry Vardon Trophy. But his effort from around 80 feet drifted left of the target and, although he holed for birdie, a four-way share of fourth place was not enough to displace Fleetwood from the top of the standings.
There was little hint of the drama to come when Rose cruised to the turn in 32 with four birdies in six holes, as he opened up a two-shot lead over the field, while Fleetwood could not build on an opening birdie and slipped down the leaderboard.
Rose continued to look solid as he parred 10 and 11, but he made his first bogey in 30 holes, and just his fourth of the week, at the 12th when he put his second shot into a greenside bunker and flew the pin with his escape attempt. With Fleetwood out of contention, the destination of the Race to Dubai title remained Rose’s control, but his grip slipped further at the 14th when he blocked his second to the par-five and found the water to the right, costing him a bogey-six.
He missed an opportunity to get a shot back at the 15th, and he then found sand from the tee at the next, and was unable to reach the green with his second, but despite pitching to four feet, his par-saving putt shaved the edge.
Fleetwood, meanwhile, looked frustrated as he bogeyed the final two holes to drop out of the top 20, but Rose could not find the birdie he needed at 17, although he almost holed out from the front bunker, and he made his task more difficult when he pulled his final drive into the left rough.
He managed to reach the front fringe with brave second shot, but the eagle attempt was wide of the target to leave Fleetwood celebrating as European No.1 for the first time.
“This is the biggest day of my career for sure,” said Fleetwood. “The emotions were difficult, because I don’t trust computers, so even when everything had finished, it was so difficult to get my head around it. I felt for Justin a lot, because I saw him when he came in. I think how gracious he was, shows a lot about his character.”
He added: “It was quite a rollercoaster of a week. The first day was poor, and even the third day was up-and-down. And then today, obviously I didn’t perform how I wanted to, but it just shows golf can be such a cruel or difficult game sometimes. I’ve just shot 14 under for two days and then couldn’t get anything going at all. Justin had played unbelievable for three-and-a-half days, and it was completely out of my hands after 12 or 13 holes. But it’s a massive learning curve, seeing that still anything can happen, and it’s still definitely not sunk in.”
Rose, who won the money list back in 2007, said: “I did hit the wall a bit today. My front nine was beautiful. I was playing great golf, and I felt in complete control, but the bogey at 12 seemed to slow all the momentum. From that point it was a bit of a grind. I had opportunities around 10 and 11, and didn’t take those, and I got a little bit frustrated, hit a poor shot on the par five. and then it was a struggle from there on in. The shots on 13 and 14 were the undoing. But I’m pleased for Tommy. He’s battled hard all year, and put a good week in South Africa last week, and had a great couple of comeback rounds this week to fight back and deserve it. He’s been leading all year, and it’s good for him to finish it off.”
As for the tournament itself, Jon Rahm fired a flawless final round 67 to snatch a one-shot win over a fast-finishing Shane Lowry and Kiradech Aphibarnrat. The Spaniard did well to keep his composure after missing a number of chances to add to his three birdies over the first 13 holes, but he got into a share of the lead with an up-and-down from an awkward lie in the sand at the 14th. A precise wedge into the 16th set up the birdie which took him to the top of the leaderboard on his own, and his closest rivals fell away one by one as the likes of Dean Burmester and Dylan Frittelli also faltered down the stretch.
Lowry held the clubhouse lead on 18 under for some time after he fired a 10-birdie 63, and he had to settle for a share of second when Aphibarnrat rolled in a nerveless putt for birdie on the final green. Sergio Garcia had earlier threatened to gatecrash the Rose/Fleetwood duel when he birdied the first four holes, and raced to the turn in 30, and the Masters’ champion picked up further shots at 12 and 15, before finding water at the last and closing with a six to finish on 17 under.