DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Tommy Fleetwood won the Race to Dubai and the right to be called the top golfer in Europe after a tense battle with Justin Rose that was ultimately decided on the final green of the season on Sunday.
Rose, seemingly in cruise control after 11 holes as he opened up a one-shot lead atop of the leaderboard on 19-under par, then wobbled and made bogeys on the 12th, 14th and 16th holes on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates.
The 37-year-old No. 6-ranked golfer reached the par-5 18th hole three shots behind clubhouse leader Jon Rahm of Spain (19 under), and needed to make an eagle to move up to second. With Fleetwood in the clubhouse in joint 21st at 11 under, Rose needed to finish in solo fourth place or better to win his second Order of Merit title.
Just short of the green with his second shot, Rose used his putter and came agonizingly close but the ball did not go in. He finished in joint fourth place at 17-under par with three other players, handing the title to Fleetwood.
Spain’s Rahm, winner of the Irish Open earlier this year on the European Tour, fired a final-round 67 to finish on 19-under par 269 to win the tournament.
Ireland’s Shane Lowry shot the day’s best round, a 63, to finish tied second at 270 alongside Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67). Masters champion Sergio Garcia (65) and South African duo of Dylan Frittelli (69) and Dean Burmester (68) were the other players tied for fourth with Rose.
Rose made four birdies in his first seven holes, and played his first poor shot on the 12th when his approach found the greenside bunker. He made a bogey there, before finding the water with his second shot on the par-5 14th and missing a two-foot par putt on the 16th.
After two successive rounds of 65, Fleetwood failed to make headway on Sunday, and could only watch the drama unfold in the scoring tent after a two-over par 74 round.
“It’s the biggest day of my career for sure. The emotions were difficult on me. I don’t trust computers, so even when everything had finished, it was so difficult to get up or down. Then I felt for Justin a lot. He was so gracious when he came in.shows a lot about his character,” said Fleetwood after accepting his trophy.
“The achievement of winning a year-long thing is massive and it holds a lot of respect among your peers and the players. It shows sort of the level of consistency and the amount I’ve improved as a player and as a person.”
Rose was disappointed with his finish, but delighted for Fleetwood.
“I just feel I went a bit flat around the turn. I had opportunities around 10 and 11 and didn’t take those. I got a little bit out of my routine and a little distracted, had a poor shot on the par-5 and then it was a struggle from there on in. The shots on 13 and 14 were the undoing,” he said.
“Tommy, I’m pleased for him. He’s battled hard all year and put a good week in South Africa 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 other players struggled down the stretch, Rahm birdied the 14th and the tough 16th to take the lead for good.
“I was a little anxious before teeing off. I really wanted to win. I really wanted to finish strong,” said Rahm, who also won the PGA Tour event in Torrey Pines and is expected to climb up to fourth place in the world rankings on Monday in his first full season as a professional.