Flourishing Rose on course to deny Fleetwood in Dubai
History could repeat itself on Sunday after Justin Rose put himself on course to win the Race to Dubai ahead of Tommy Fleetwood in a first round which ended with Patrick Reed holding a one-shot lead at the DP World Tour Championship.
Rose overtook Ernie Els to be crowned Order of Merit champion for the first time with a victory in the final event of the 2007 season at Valderrama.
The in-form Englishman gave himself an excellent opportunity to be finish the year as the European number one for a second time a decade later with a six-under 66, taking a share of second place with Scott Hend in Dubai.
Rose will win the Harry Vardon Trophy if he finishes solo fifth or higher on Sunday provided Fleetwood is below him on the leaderboard and the U.S. Open champion is in pole position to achieve that at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
Fleetwood could only manage a one-over 73 after starting with a double-bogey and dropping another four shots in mixed round which included an eagle-three at the seventh.
Back-to-back wins— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) November 16, 2017
And one back after 18 holes. pic.twitter.com/Jo8UbXr1jF
After putting himself firmly in contention with back-to-back wins at the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open before skipping the Nedbank Golf Challenge last week, Rose continued his charge on Thursday.
The world number six hit every green in regulation playing in the final group with Fleetwood, holing from the bunker for an eagle three at the 14th and finishing on a high note with his fifth birdie of a promising day.
Sergio Garcia is the only other contender to end 2017 as Europe's leading golfer, but the Masters champion is five shots adrift of Reed needing to win the tournament to overtake Fleetwood and Rose.
American Reed was sensational on the back nine, five of his seven birdies coming after the turn in a blemish-free round which gave him a slender advantage over Rose and Hend, who was left to rue his only dropped shot at the last.
Defending champion Matt Fitzpatrick is among six players just two shots adrift of Reed, who won his only European Tour title three years ago.