Tommy Fleetwood is backing himself to have the last laugh after his chances of winning the Race to Dubai for the first time were considered a joke in some quarters.
Fleetwood has set the pace for most of the season thanks to wins in Abu Dhabi and France, two runners-up finishes and a tie for fourth in the US Open, but found his credentials as a European number one in question on social media.
“I remember seeing a Tweet somewhere and somebody laughed at the thought of me winning the Race to Dubai, so that motivated me a bit more,” Fleetwood admitted ahead of the decisive DP World Tour Championship.
“Somebody had put, ‘Who do you think will win?’, and I wasn’t included. (Renowned putting coach) Phil Kenyon said, ‘What about the current leader?’, and somebody laughed.
“Little things like that always motivate you a little bit, but I don’t remember who it was.”
Fleetwood looked a near-certainty until Justin Rose won back-to-back events in China and Turkey to slash his commanding lead, a lead he almost doubled to 256,738 points thanks to a tie for 10th in South Africa last week as Rose rested at home.
Masters champion Sergio Garcia can prevent an English champion with a fourth victory of the season in Dubai, but also needs Fleetwood and Rose to falter and is using new clubs in competition for the first time after his deal with TaylorMade expired.
“I would put my money on me. Every day,” added Fleetwood, whose fiancee and baby son are with him this week. “It will be a perfect way to end a year that’s been amazing for me, the biggest year of my career by a long way.
“You do look at individual events like the majors. They are the ones that everybody wants to win. I think it is a bit harsh that a lot of people’s careers are defined by four events. At the end of the day anybody can have a hot week with the putter and win.
“Over the course of a year, it’s a lot more difficult and I think it does hold a lot of respect with your peers, having that consistency throughout a year.
“The list of players that have won it is great. I’m either going to join that list or the list of great players is going to carry on with one of the other two. I want it to be me.”
Rose won what was then called the Order of Merit in 2007 and coincidentally did so with victory in the final event of the year, the Volvo Masters at Valderrama.
“I still think it’s one of my biggest achievements in the game,” said the former US Open champion and Olympic gold medallist, who missed 21 cuts in succession after turning professional following a tie for fourth in the 1998 Open as a 17-year-old amateur.
“Any time you beat world-class players over the course of a year, it means often a lot more than it does winning in a week.
“It was as if my potential as a kid, the Birkdale boy... it was like I had really achieved something to justify some of that early hype.”
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