DUBAI (AFP) - Justin Rose continued his blistering form with a six-under par first round in Dubai on Thursday (Nov 16) as he chased a third straight victory and a second European Tour crown.
The world No.6 from England, winner of the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open in successive weeks, hit a 66 in the US$8 million (S$10.8 million) DP World Tour Championship.
Rose was tied for second, one shot behind Patrick Reed. The American fired a bogey-free 65, thus setting himself up for what could be his first win of the season. Australia's Scott Hend also shot a 66.
Race to Dubai leader Tommy Fleetwood, the man Rose is trying to catch, had a poor opening day. After starting with a double bogey, the 27-year-old Englishman had an inconsistent round and signed for a one-over par 73 card, tied for the 46th in the 60-man field.
Fleetwood leads the race by 256,737 points. If he does not win, Rose can claim his second European rankings title by finishing in an untied second place. A top-five finish could be enough for Rose, depending on where his younger compatriot ends on Sunday.
The only other player with a distant chance of winning the Race to Dubai, Masters champion Sergio Garcia, opened with a 70 and was tied for 21st on a low-scoring day at the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates.
Rose took advantage of the two par-5s on the front nine, but a bogey on the ninth meant he made the turn at one-under par. However, after back-to-back birdies on the 10th and 11th, the 37-year-old holed out from the front bunker on the par-5 14th for an eagle and closed with a radar-guided approach shot on the 18th that set up a tap-in birdie.
"A lot of good things happened," said Rose, who hit 17 greens in regulation.
"I drove the ball well today. The front nine, my iron play was actually terrible. Even though I didn't miss a green, iron play wasn't really on song at all. Little things started to really go my way on the back nine.
"I was happy to be patient no matter what happened today. But also, conscious that I've won from eight back on the weekends the last two times, but that's not really a recipe that you want to continue to follow."
Fleetwood rued a poor start and blamed it on nerves.
"The start was shocking. I gifted the first with the double, should have made five, at worst, on the second. I was giving shots away early on," he said.
"It was such an up-and-down day. There was a bit of nerves there. There's always going to be. I've never been in this position before, so a bit of nerves."
World number 23 Reed, who has been a European Tour member for two years now, is aiming to win his first title of the year and was delighted with his start.
"I felt like ball-striking was where it needed to be. I pretty much had control over the golf ball today," said Reed.