Francesco Molinari only needs to finish fifth to be crowned European number one and he made a promising start in Dubai.
Jordan Smith and Adrian Otaegui hold a share of the lead after the first round of the DP World Tour Championship and Francesco Molinari is on course to win the Race to Dubai title.
Smith and Otaegui shot six-under opening rounds of 66 at Jumeirah Golf Estates, with defending champion Jon Rahm and Danny Willett just a shot off the leading duo.
Molinari will be crowned European number one in what has been a dream season if he finishes in a tie for fifth or above in the eighth and final Rolex Series event of the year this weekend.
The Open champion made a positive start on the Earth Course on Thursday, a 68 setting him up nicely in his bid to dethrone great friend Tommy Fleetwood.
Only a win will be enough for Fleetwood to win back-to-back Race to Dubai titles and the Englishman is only a shot back from Ryder Cup team-mate Molinari.
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) November 15, 2018
Smith, the 139-ranked Englishman, conjured up his best ever back nine on the European Tour, coming home in 30 with an eagle and five birdies.
Spaniard Otaegui made three birdies on the front nine and as many after the turn in a blemish-free round.
Molinari would have been in a share of the lead but for two bogeys in his last four holes, while Fleetwood did not drop any shots but had to settle for three birdies to sit alongside Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed on three under.