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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

DP World Tour Championship: Fleetwood revives Race to Dubai bid after second round charge

Englishman recovered from his "nervy" opening round to post as 65 at Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Tommy Fleetwood is the current Race to Dubai leader. Ross Kinnaird / Getty Images
Tommy Fleetwood is the current Race to Dubai leader. Ross Kinnaird / Getty Images

Tommy Fleetwood’s bid to bookend his season with titles in the UAE was revived by a sparkling second-round 65 in the DP World Tour Championship.

The Englishman had arrived at Jumeirah Golf Estates defending a lead at the top of the Race to Dubai he has held for most of the year since winning the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in January.

Second-placed Justin Rose has to make up 256,737 points by the end of Sunday if he is to leapfrog his compatriot at the top of the Order of Merit.

That had appeared likely when Rose singed the Earth Course with a 66 on Day 1, while Fleetwood made a nervy, 1-over-par 73.

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However, Fleetwood charged back through the field in rousing fashion on Friday morning, with a 7-under round that took him to a tie for 11th.

Rose, in the penultimate match out in Round 2, missed a short putt on the last for his par, and signed for a 2-under 70. He is 8-under for the tournament, placed in a tie for third, two shots clear of Fleetwood.

“There's still a tournament to play for and there's still a Race to Dubai to play for,” Fleetwood, 26, said. “There's two things going on and you've just got to concentrate on one, and try and do your best in the tournament.

“But I needed a low one today for both purposes. The only thing you can control is the tournament. The Race to Dubai, I can't do anything about the maths or what Justin does or anything.

“So the sole focus was to try to get back into this event. I knew I needed a low one.”

Given his poor opening round, Fleetwood was one of the early starters on Day 2, the sixth match out, at 8.40am.

His subsequent excellence was noted by Rose, whose teed off four hours later, although Fleetwood himself was unsure how much of a bearing it would have on his rival.

“I don't know if he'll be bothered or not,” the Race leader said. “He's so strong mentally and he knows what he's doing. He's been in a lot of situations like this.

“This is my first time. But I'm glad I've put my name up there. At least my name is somewhere now, rather than the wrong end of the leaderboard. You still have to go out and shoot scores. He's on amazing form at the moment.”

Rose acknowledged he had been aware of Fleetwood’s second-round revival, but said it was his putter that was to blame for his moderate outing, rather than the pressure of the situation.

“I knew there was a good score to be out there, but from Tommy's point of view it's a great bounce-back after yesterday,” Rose, 37, said. “Like I tried to say all week, it doesn't really make much difference to me in my mind-set.

“It might make a difference on Sunday because I know there's tons of permutations still. But in terms of my task, it doesn't make too much difference.”

Rose might have been at least two shots better off after his immaculate drive on the par-5 18th.

However, he leaked his approach to the right of the green, and took four to get down from there.

He said his mind had been scrambled by the Earth Course’s finishing hole, which has a waterfall cascading behind the green, as well as a creek snaking down the centre of the fairway.

“The 3-wood right was an unforced error, but then to compound it with a 3-putt was annoying,” Rose said.

“It's a really confusing visual coming up 18. It's hard to see the whole putting surface, and there's so much going on in the backdrop that when I had my last look towards the target, your brain takes in a lot of information.

“I probably wasn't clear on my target and my shot and bailed out there. The third shot was kind of a playable one.

“If you played it perfect, I was a yard short of probably being six feet. So I nearly played a great third shot but maybe tried to force the putt.”

Sergio Garcia ended Round 2 a stroke behind Fleetwood. The Spaniard started the week third in the Race, with an outside shot at the title.

He has to win the Championship, and hope Fleetwood finishes outside the top eleven, with Rose ending in fourth or worse.

Defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick leads at 10-under, while Tyrell Hatton, who was runner up last year, occupies the same position at present, one shot back.