Race to Dubai: Francesco Molinari leads rival Tommy Fleetwood

Francesco Molinari
Francesco Molinari won this year's Open Championship and then helped Europe win the Ryder Cup
First-round leaderboard
-6 Smith (Eng), Otaegui (Spa); -5 Willett (Eng), Rahm (Spa); -4 Molinari (Ita), Li (Chn), Wallace, (Eng), Fisher (Eng), Pieters (Bel)
Selected others: -3 Fleetwood (Eng), McIlroy (NI), Reed (US); -2 Westwood (Eng); -1 Garcia (Spa); E Poulter (Eng)

Italian Francesco Molinari remained on course to win his first Race to Dubai title after finishing the opening round of the DP World Tour Championship a shot better than rival Tommy Fleetwood.

The 36-year-old can only be denied the overall crown if Fleetwood wins the season finale and he finishes worse than tied fifth with one other person.

Molinari is two behind leaders Jordan Smith and Adrian Otaegui on four under.

England's Danny Willett is on five under alongside Spaniard Jon Rahm.

Molinari held a share of the lead after 14 holes at Jumeirah Golf Estates, but then three-putted both the 15th and 18th.

The Italian, Fleetwood's playing partner, said: "It's only Thursday so there are so many things that can happen. Both of us did not hit the ball our best but we managed to scramble well and close out two decent rounds.

"I did a good job of thinking shot by shot and that's what I need to do. I don't think there is any benefit to thinking about what-ifs. It's too early."

Fleetwood, whose partnership with Molinari at the Ryder Cup was known as "Moliwood", added: "You come into this week still with a chance of the Race to Dubai - one round down and we still have a chance. As long as our head's above water for that, we'll be happy and keep going."

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy and Masters champion Patrick Reed are part of a 12-way tie on three under on a day when 46 of the 60-man field shot par or better.

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