DP World Tour Championship: Francesco Molinari leads Tommy Fleetwood at Dubai season-ender

Tommy Fleetwood (left) is the only player who can catch Francesco Molinari (right) in the European Tour's Race to Dubai standings. David Cannon/Getty Images

Francesco Molinari carded a 4-under-par 68 to take a one-shot lead over Ryder Cup teammate Tommy Fleetwood on the opening day of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai on Thursday.

Molinari can win the European Tour's Race to Dubai if he secures a finish of fifth or better at the season-ending tournament, while Fleetwood needs to win the title to have a chance of catching the Italian in the overall points standings.

World No.6 Molinari held a three-shot lead over the Englishman as the pair headed into the 18th hole but a bogey from the Italian, combined with a birdie from Fleetwood, cut the gap to just one stroke.

The bogey was Molinari's second of the day after he had hit six birdies through his opening 14 holes, while Fleetwood's birdie was his third of a bogey-free round of 69.

England's Jordan Smith and Spain's Adrian Otaegui lead overall after carding rounds of 6-under-par and are one shot ahead of Danny Willett and Jon Rahm.

Molinari is joined by Ross Fisher, Thomas Pieters, Matt Wallace and Li Haotong in a tie for fifth while Fleetwood is one of 12 players, including Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed, at 3 under.

Molinari and Fleetwood made Ryder Cup history in September as they became the first European pairing to win all four of their matches as Europe defeated the U.S. at Le Golf National.