DUBAI – The battle between Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose to finish the year as Europe’s No 1 golfer took another twist on Friday in the DP World Tour Championship.
After two rounds, a familiar face topped the leaderboard in the $8 million event. Matthew Fitzpatrick, the defending champion, hit a second 67 to finish 10-under-par.
But much of the focus in the European Tour’s season-ending event was on the two men leading the “Race to Dubai”.
Fleetwood, who struggled in the first round, shot a seven-under-par 65 in the second to make up five shots on Rose, who hit 70.
Rose is tied for third, two shots ahead of Fleetwood, who is in a four-way tie for 11th.
For Fitzpatrick, Friday was eerily similar to the final round last year when he won with a birdie on the 18th as Tyrell Hatton made a bogey.
This time, Fitzpatrick sank a 25-footer on the final hole on the Earth course at Jumeirah Golf Estates, while Hatton, 10-under through 17 holes, dropped a shot on the 18th from a horrible lie in the bunker to finish on nine-under par.
Rose can claim his second European end-of-season title by finishing first or solo second if Fleetwood does not win, or with a top-five showing if his younger compatriot finishes down the leaderboard.
Fleetwood leads the race by 256 737 points.
“It’s all about how you react to stuff, isn’t it?” Fleetwood said after a birdie finish. “Yesterday, I was really unhappy with how I reacted early on. Got off to a bad start and got back into it and I didn’t really play great.
“I was on the putting green till dark last night. Today was just a much better day. And I am happy I still have things in my hand instead of being way back.”
Rose, who played another solid round with four birdies in increasingly difficult conditions, was disappointed with his three-putt bogey on the 18th.
“Slightly frustrating round,” Rose said. “There were probably a lot of chances I could have taken.
“But at the same time, it’s a good mark. It’s a good, solid effort after yesterday and puts me in great position for the weekend.”
The only other player in contention, Masters champion Sergio Garcia, added a 69 to his opening-round 70 and is one shot behind Fleetwood.
Rookie Julian Suri (68) of the USA and Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67) of Thailand were in tied third place at eight-under par 136 alongside Rose.