It didn’t come with the drama of his victory at the Open Championship or the emotion of his triumph with Team Europe at the Ryder Cup. But there was satisfaction nonetheless for Francesco Molinari as he accepted honors for winning the European Tour’s Race to Dubai title on Sunday.
Molinari’s golf was middling at the DP World Tour Championship; a closing 71 gave him a six-under 281 total that left him in a tie for 26th, 12 strokes behind tournament champ Danny Willett. But with only Tommy Fleetwood able to pass him on the season-points total in Dubai, and with the Englishman faring only slightly better as he finished T-16, Molinari came out on top.
“This is special,” said the 36-year-old, the first Italian player to win the title. “In a week, you can beat anybody. But a season-long race is much tougher.”
Before winning at Carnoustie in July, Molinari had captured the BMW PGA Championship in May and was second in the Italian Open. The combination gave him a commanding lead in the points standings. So commanding that Molinari didn’t even play in the first two Race to Dubai playoff events and still had only one man to beat to claim the title.
That said, there were a few anxious moments at the Jumeirah Golf Estates this week as Molinari struggled to find his game after his recent layoff.
Indeed, Fleetwood, the Race to Dubai champion in 2017, could have put real pressure on his good friend with a more impressive showing over the weekend. But a two-over 74 on Saturday made his Sunday 68 a bit moot.
“[It was] not comfortable,” Molinari said of his weekend. “I know how talented Tommy is, and I knew he could do anything today or yesterday. The way I played, unfortunately it wasn’t really in my hands any more. I was lucky enough to come out on top and I’m super happy.”
The only sad part: The victory marks the end of a career-defining season.
“It’s more than I ever dreamed of achieving,” he said of his 2018, which also included a win on the PGA Tour at the Quicken Loans. “I’ve seen guys that I think are better players than me not winning majors and not winning order of merits. To achieve those things in one single season is just incredible.”