Molinari caps "incredible" year to finish as European number one

The Italian claims the season-ending Race to Dubai prize as Danny Willett wins the final event on the tour to complete turnaround from a "very dark place."

"I'm really struggling for words," said Francesco Molinari.

No surprise there, after the year he's had.

July saw the Italian win The Open Championship at Carnoustie in Scotland, his first major.

In September the 36-year-old made Ryder Cup history by becoming the first European player to win five points out of five.

Now Molinari has his hands on the Race to Dubai trophy after finishing the season as the number one golfer in Europe, the first Italian to rise to the top spot on the European Tour.

"It's more than I ever dreamed of achieving." - Molinari

Stunning season

For topping the European earning charts, Molinari's name will be inscribed alongside the greats including Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie, and Rory McIlroy.

"I've seen guys that I think are better players than me not winning majors and not winning Order of Merits or Race to Dubai [titles]. To achieve those things in one single season is just incredible," said Molinari.

Only defending champion Tommy Fleetwood could have denied him the number one ranking going into the final day of the season.

Englishman Fleetwood had to win the final tournament of the golfing year to do so, but carded a 68 to finish on 10 under - eight shots behind eventual event winner Danny Willett.

Molinari's order of merit triumph was confirmed before he finished his round of 71 in Dubai.

Fleetwood was the first to congratulate the emotional Italian.

“Earlier this year if someone had told me I would go on to win at Wentworth, then win on the PGA Tour, then win The Open, then get five points at the Ryder Cup, and then win the Race To Dubai, I would have laughed... "I'm so proud” - Molinari in his post-round press conference.

Willett rediscovers winning touch

The podium on the day belonged to Olympian Danny Willett, who took his first winner's trophy since the 2016 Masters.

This DP World Tour Championship title highlights a remarkable return to the top for the golfer who said he found himself in a "very dark place."

Plagued by injuries, doubts, and a lack of form, Willett plummetted from a career-high 9th in the World Rankings down to 462nd in the space of two years.

The win didn't come easily either.

A dramatic final hole began with the Englishman two shots up on Matt Wallace.

Willett hit his last tee shot of the tournament badly, the ball clinging on for dear life on the edge of the water hazard.

Willett plays his second shot of the 18th hole from the water's edge.
Willett plays his second shot of the 18th hole from the water's edge.Willett plays his second shot of the 18th hole from the water's edge.

The ball held on and so did its owner.

Willett finished 18 under, two clear of Wallace and Patrick Reed.

“I’m just massively proud of myself and everyone that’s been around me." - Danny Willett told EuropeanTour.com

"You never quite know when a win is around the corner and with all the things that have happened, I was never quite sure if it was going to happen again."

“We’ve battled long and hard through this season to come out at the end, regardless of what happened today, a better person and a better athlete. It’s a special place. It’s been a hell of a lot of work and it’s just nice to be back.” Willett added.

Justin Rose back to World No.1

How?

It's complicated.

Danny Willett's Rio 2016 teammate Justin Rose ended up with top ranking at the Olympics, and he's done it this weekend too without even picking up a club.

Englishman Rose is moving back up to number one in the world... for a week.

That's because U.S. golfer Brooks Koepka finished 12th at the Pheonix Open in Japan, which caused him to lose ranking points, and see him slip to second.

Koepka won't be too worried though, he'll knock Rose off his perch again next Monday due to the magic rankings system algorithm, despite the fact that neither will play a single hole of golf in the meantime.

Understand?

If not, don't worry. Do what Rose has been doing.

Sit back and relax... and enjoy his hole-in-one at Rio - the first ever in an Olympic competition:

Justin Rose gives Olympic history first hole in one

Justin Rose gives Olympic history first hole in one

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