Published: Thu, November 15, 2018
Sport | By Wilson Duncan

Francesco Molinari poised to cap remarkable season in Dubai

Francesco Molinari poised to cap remarkable season in Dubai

Including this week's World Tour Championship, McIlroy will have only played six European Tour-only tournaments in 2018, but it was enough to keep his card for this season.

The sensational Ryder Cup partnership widely known as "Moliwood", now sit in first and second place in the Race to Dubai and are the only two players who can take home the trophy leading into the final event of the competition this week. Not the sort of news European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley wanted in the final event of the 2018 season.

The Omega European Masters is one of the two "pure" European Tour events McIlroy will play before the end of August.

First awarded in 1955, the Collare d'Oro al Merito Sportivo can only be bestowed on an athlete once in a career, for achieving the pinnacle in their sport, and there can be no doubt of Molinari's merit after he won the Open Championship and then became the first European to win five out of five points in the Ryder Cup.

"The way the schedule has worked for next year, it is going to be different for a lot of guys", McIlroy said.

The rule for keeping your European Tour card states that a player must play four European Tour-specific tournaments in a season (that is, not majors and not WGCs).

Ahead of this week's DP Tour Championship, the World No.7 revealed that he may not fulfil the requirements for membership next season after the shake-up of the global calendar caused by the US PGA Championship moving from August to May.

McIlroy has only two on his schedule and may miss the Irish Open, which he has hosted for the last four years.

But here's another wrinkle, thanks to a new rule that was enacted in January: "Players can not be a European Ryder Cup captain or vice captain if they decline membership of the European Tour or fail to fulfill their minimum event obligation in any season".

The 36-year-old then became the first European to compile a ideal 5-0 record in Europe's Ryder Cup triumph in Paris, four of them won with his good friend Tommy Fleetwood.

"I guess my thing is that I want to play against the strongest fields week in and week out, and for the most part of the season that is in America", he said. "But if it were to be that I don't fulfil my membership next year it is not a Ryder Cup year so it is not the end of the world".

The emotional win was Westwood's 24th on the European Tour and his third at the Nedbank but the victory also ended the hopes of Haotong Li, Rory McIlroy and Lucas Bjerregaard having any mathematical chance of claiming the top prize; meaning there are now just two men left in the hunt.

It has been a season of firsts for Francesco Molinari, but the Ryder Cup hero is looking forward to two more before finally being able to reflect on a remarkable year.

However, a knock-on effect of giving up European Tour membership has more implications than being unable to qualify for the Race to Dubai; it would also stop him from ever becoming a future Ryder Cup Vice Captain or Captain. All the best players in the Race to Dubai are here, and it's an incredibly competitive field.

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