DUBAI • It took just one hole for Tommy Fleetwood to be dissuaded of any notion that his claiming of the Race to Dubai title could be in straightforward terms.
By the close of play yesterday at the DP World Tour Championship, Justin Rose had not only applied pressure towards Fleetwood in brilliant fashion, but also raised the very real possibility of three tournament wins in succession.
Rose's 66 places him a shot from the top of the leaderboard, where Patrick Reed sits at seven under despite waking up with a sore back.
Fleetwood double-bogeyed the first and dropped another shot at the third to lie second last in the 60-man field, meaning his recovery to the point of signing for a 73 was relatively impressive.
Yet it is clear advantage for Rose in the bigger picture; but for a Fleetwood resurgence and stumble from the man now predicted to win the European money title, the 2013 US Open champion will prevail.
"The start was shocking," said a rueful Fleetwood.
"There's a bit of nerves there. I've never been in this position before. It is kind of out of my hands but you never know what can happen. I've got three more (days) to go, and let's see what happens."
Rose trails Fleetwood in the Race by 256,737 points.
If Fleetwood does not win in Dubai, a solo second place will secure Rose top spot. If Rose finishes outside the top five, Fleetwood will hold his place at the top of the rankings regardless of his performance at the Jumeirah Golf Estates.
"This was not really on the radar a month ago," admitted Rose, who clinched victories in his last two tournaments at the WGC HSBC Champions in China and the Turkish Airlines Open, on the Race to Dubai crown.
"That's the perspective that I have to keep because it's an opportunity for me. It could be easy to start to think about it now but I think it's still a bonus at this point.
"There's two things to think about this week: winning the golf tournament and the Race to Dubai. I know that if I do one of those, then the second one happens.
"You know, some weeks it happens, some weeks it doesn't, but right now, things are certainly a bit easier than they normally do."
Sergio Garcia, who has - albeit faint - Race to Dubai aspirations of his own, carded a first-round 70. He currently lies third in the rankings.
For first-round leader Reed, his bogey-free 65 raised hopes of a first victory in more than a year.
"The warmup actually wasn't what I wanted," Reed admitted after starting the day with back pain.
"I was kind of spraying it about. Then my caddie reminded me, 'You're a gamer, not a range guy. Let's get off to a good start, hit some fairways and hit some greens'."
Reed duly opened with back-to-back birdies. What Fleetwood would have traded for that.
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
DP WORLD TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP
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