With the PGA Championship moving to May in the U.S., Europe's answer was to push the majority of its big events into the fall. Fleetwood took the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and almost stole Shinnecock from Brooks Koepka.
The two star men went some way to helping Europe win the Ryder Cup at a canter from the United States of America, and ten golfers from that contest are competing in the first round in Dubai.
But he has no chance of winning the Order of Merit crown for the fourth time, only Ryder Cup heroes Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood can win the race. The last of his four major titles came in 2014 and he's won just once worldwide in the last two years - at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational. But if he falls lower than fifth, Fleetwood would have an opportunity to pass him at the finish line with a win in the season's final tournament.
Smith, even par through 12 holes, made an eagle and four birdies in his last six holes to reach six-under par 66, where he was later joined by the solid Otaegui, who was bogey-free on the day.
The former World No.1 picked up two quick birdies at the 2nd and 3rd, but immediately gave both of those shots back to the course at the 4th and 5th courtesy of bogeys, only to then regain them at the 6th and 8th.
"It's a shame because I putted really well up until the 14th and then I just misjudged the pace on a couple of those putts and left myself more work to do than I needed to", Molinari said.
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Despite squandering a 15-point lead in the third quarter, Memphis used a 15-2 run in the fourth to post a 116-113 victory. James sat out in the beginning of the fourth, before re-entering the game with seven minutes left.
The Italian, Fleetwood's playing partner, said: "It's only Thursday so there are so many things that can happen". I don't know. Right now I've got two events on my schedule in Europe and I don't have to commit to that until next year.
Andrew Turner, Arccos' Global Sales Director said: "The data we have been able to produce using Arccos Caddie provides a logical insight into what Fleetwood and Molinari are likely to score and what club choices they will make". "We don't get in each other's way".
"I did a good job of thinking shot by shot and that's what I need to do". Great for us as friends.
At 4 under, Molinari is now tied for fifth among the 60-man field, and should he finish the week inside the top 5 he would clinch the Race to Dubai crown regardless of Fleetwood's performance. In fact, the odds are that we probably will.
"After this tournament [the DP World Tour Championship], I'm going to play one tournament in 13 weeks". Molinari is trying to not think about a capper to his season and the over $1 million bonus prize that goes along with the year-end title.
"There was a little bit [of banter] last week, but it was the first time I had really spoke about it".