Top trio grouped together at Italian Open

Masters champion Sergio Garcia of Spain and his caddie Glen Murray in discussion during the Pro-Am tournament ahead of the Italian Open. Picture: Stuart Franklin/Getty
Masters champion Sergio Garcia of Spain and his caddie Glen Murray in discussion during the Pro-Am tournament ahead of the Italian Open. Picture: Stuart Franklin/Getty
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The three leading contenders in the Race to Dubai will tee off together as the European Tour’s lucrative Rolex Series resumes at the Italian Open.

Standings leader Tommy Fleetwood will play alongside Spaniards Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm, second and third respectively, in the first round at Parco Reale di Monza today.

The event has attracted a high-quality field with four other players currently in the top 10 – Alex Noren, Ross Fisher, Francesco Molinari and Bernd Wiesberger – also competing.

It is the fifth tournament of the new Rolex Series, a group of eight premium events in which the total prize fund is a guaranteed £5.3 million.

Fleetwood and Rahm are two of the previous winners in the series, triumphing at the French Open and Irish Open respectively in July. Garcia continues to fly high after his maiden major victory at the Masters in April.

Fleetwood arrives in 
Italy on the back of setting a new course record of 63 at Carnoustie, venue for next year’s Open, at the Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland last week. Tyrell Hatton, the winner of that event for a second year in succession and up to 11th in the standings, is also in the field along with fellow 
Englishman Matt Fitzpatrick (14th).

Other notable names include recent British Masters winner Paul Dunne, 2016 US Masters champion Danny Willett and European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn.

Fresh from finishing joint fourth at the Dunhill Links, in-form Marc Warren is one of five Scots in the field and is joined by Stephen Gallacher, David Drysdale, Scott Jamieson and Richie Ramsay.

Rahm, pictured, is looking forward to getting under way in what will be a high-profile three ball. He said: “Sergio and I get along great. It’s a true honour to be playing with him. He is the Masters champion this year so it’s even more of an honour to play with someone like Sergio and learn from him.

“And then Tommy, who is closer to my age, and is just a great guy. He’s been playing some great golf and, on top of that, he’s won twice this year in Abu Dhabi and France. He’s leading the Race to Dubai and he’s playing some outstanding golf worldwide.

“He very, very much deserves to be in the number one spot right now and I’ll be looking forward to playing with him.”

Rahm has his sights firmly set on winning the Race to Dubai, which culminates with the DP World Tour Championship in the United Arab Emirates next month.

He said: “After winning in Ireland, I really became conscious of the fact that I could win it. It became a goal of mine, especially once I learned that nobody since Seve [Ballesteros] in Spain has won it.”

Meanwhile, former US Ryder Cup captain Davis Love would like to see more American tournaments taken overseas.

Love is at the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur this week, the first of three PGA Tour events taking place in Asia in successive weeks.

It is followed by the CJ Cup in Korea and the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, and veteran Love is a fan of the schedule. The 53-year-old said: “In 1985 when I started on the tour I never thought I’d be playing at Pebble Beach, then New York, then Malaysia and then back to play in Mississippi. It’s amazing but now it’s the norm.

“I remember Gary Player, and then your Ernie Els and Sergio Garcias that travel all round the world playing in so many countries. US players need to get used to that as well. This is where our future is, playing more of a world tour.”

Justin Thomas is bidding for a third successive victory in the Malaysian event. The 24-year-old is in fine form after winning his maiden major title at the US PGA Championship in August and then finishing top of the FedEx Cup standings.