DP World Tour Championship, Dubai
Jumeirah Golf Estates, Dubai, United Arab Emirates 15 Nov 2018 - 18 Nov 2018
Sunday, 18 November 2018
Danny Willett  (Getty Images)
Danny Willett (Getty Images)

Danny Willett made a triumphant return of the winner's circle as Francesco Molinari was crowned Europe's Number One on a dramatic final day of the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.

Englishman Willett had the world at his feet in April 2016 as he claimed a maiden Major Championship at the Masters Tournament but when he arrived this week at Jumeirah Golf Estates, that remained the last time he had tasted victory.

Injuries and an admitted lack of form saw him drop as low as 462nd in the Official World Golf Ranking but a closing 68 in Dubai means he is now a Rolex Series champion and back on the way up.

Willett made three birdies in his last five holes to get to 18 under, two shots clear of fellow Englishman Matt Wallace and reigning Masters Champion Patrick Reed.

Defending champion Jon Rahm was then at 14 under alongside fellow Spaniard Adrian Otaegui and South African Dean Burmester.

Molinari entered the week knowing that only a win for closest rival and great friend Tommy Fleetwood could deny him the Race to Dubai title and with the Englishman finishing in a tie for 16th, Italy had its first European Tour Number One.

In the season after winning the Masters, Willett finished 96th in the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex and in August of 2017 started working with new coach Sean Foley.

He missed five of his first seven cuts this season but a tie for eighth at the Italian Open ignited his campaign and two more Rolex Series top tens were to follow before he claimed European Tour title number six on the Earth Course.

“It's been a lot of hard work,” said an emotional Willett. “It's been tough. I'm just massively proud of myself and everyone that's been around me.

"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.

“To happen here at the end of year, 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.”

A poor second shot from Reed on the first handed Willett the lead and when the 31 year old holed a brilliant 45-foot double-breaker for eagle on the par-five second, he was three ahead.

Wallace also birdied the second but gave the shot straight back with a three-putt on the third before making a gain from five feet at the fifth.

Willett then took advantage of the par-five seventh to turn at 17 under, five shots clear of Reed - who had also bogeyed the eighth - and three ahead of Wallace, who made a gain on the ninth after chipping in for par on the eighth.

The leader got in tree trouble for a bogey on the tenth and Reed made putts of 15 and ten feet on the tenth and 11th to edge back towards the summit.

Willett caught the lip of a bunker and surrendered another bogey on the 12th, allowing Wallace to take a share of the lead when he took advantage of the 14th.

Reed and Willett both got up and down smartly for gains of their own on the par five and then both put approaches on the 15th inside six feet for a pair of birdies.

Wallace birdied the last to keep his hopes alive but Willett put his tee-shot on the par-three 17th to five feet for a birdie and with Reed failing to get up and down after missing the green, the American's gain on the last only handed him a share of second.

Otaegui had been right in contention when he turned in 32 with birdies on the second, third, fifth and ninth but he bogeyed the 13th and 17th before making a closing gain.

Rahm was bogey-free with birdies on the seventh, 13th, 14th and 16th, while Burmester made five birdies and three bogeys in a 70.

Dylan Frittelli and Tom Lewis finished at 13 under, a shot clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Sergio Garcia and Alex Noren.

A Rolex Series Event

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1WILLETT, DannyENG18-18
T2REED, PatrickUSA18-16
T4RAHM, JonESP18-14
T4OTAEGUI, AdrianESP18-14

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