Nov 15 (Reuters) - Italy’s Francesco Molinari kept his grip on the European Tour’s season-defining crown despite two late bogeys in a four-under-par 68 that kept him within two shots of the lead on day one of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai on Thursday.
Molinari, who will secure the Race to Dubai title if he finishes in a two-way tie for fifth or better at Jumeirah Golf Estates this week, exuded a sense of calm as he chalked up three birdies on the front nine.
His sixth birdie of the day on the 14th hole gave Molinari a share of the lead, but a pair of bogeys on the final four holes left him two behind joint tournament leaders Adrian Otaegui and Jordan Smith.
England’s Smith sank five birdies and an eagle in a blistering 66, which was matched by Spaniard Otaegui’s bogey-free round.
Reigning British Open champion Molinari finished the day in a share of fifth place alongside English duo Ross Fisher and Matt Wallace, Belgian Thomas Pieters and China’s in-form Li Haotong.
Tommy Fleetwood, who needs to win in Dubai to have any chance of pipping Molinari to the Harry Vardon Trophy, was a shot behind his Ryder Cup team mate in a group including former world number one Rory McIlroy.
Spain’s Jon Rahm opened his title defence with a 67 to sit one shot off the pace alongside England’s Danny Willett. (Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru Editing by David Goodman)