Rose takes route 66 in Race to Dubai

Reuters
Rose, who ended the round joint second with Australia's Scott Hend, knows he will win the US$1.25-million race if he stays in second place and above compatriot Tommy Fleetwood.
Reuters
AFP

Justin Rose of England hits out of a bunker during the first round of the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on November 16, 2017.

Justin Rose struck an early blow in the Race to Dubai by trouncing his playing partner Tommy Fleetwood as the two went head to head in the season-defining DP World Tour Championship in Dubai on Thursday.

Briton Rose, the world No. 6, shot a near flawless 66 to finish one shot behind first-round leader Patrick Reed of the United States and seven ahead of Fleetwood, who started with a 256,000-point lead in the European Tour money list.

Rose, who ended the round joint second with Australia's Scott Hend, knows he will win the US$1.25-million race if he stays in second place and above compatriot Fleetwood.

Sergio Garcia is the only contender but his round of 70 left him four shots adrift of Rose. The Spaniard needs victory to stand any chance of winning the race.

Rose went into the round supremely confident after victories in his last two tournaments at the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai and the Turkish Airlines Open.

He received an immediate boost at the opening hole when a nervous Fleetwood dropped two shots. Rose's round gathered pace and his back-nine 31 included three birdies and a chip-in from the bunker for an eagle at the 14th.

Rose, whose only other European order of merit victory came in 2007, finished with a birdie at the last.

"I have to put the scenarios out of my mind and just win the tournament," Rose said. "I'm really happy because I wanted to come out with good intent. I don't think I missed a green, apart from the 17th when I was just off the edge."

Fleetwood, who has led the rankings for most the year, admitted he had been nervous and said his first hole "when I was playing for the biggest achievement in my career was a comedy of errors".

But Fleetwood maintained he was still in with a chance of retrieving the situation if he gets off to a good start on Friday.

"My round looks a lot worse because I was playing with Rosey who never missed a putt," he said.

"Suddenly it is out of my hands but I am going to have to shoot something really low tomorrow but 54 holes is a lot of holes."

First-round lead

In Miyazaki, Japan, defending Dunlop Phoenix Tournament champion Brooks Koepka quickly stamped his authority on the challengers to his title with a 6-under 65 to tie South Korean Lee Sang-hee for the first-round lead on Thursday.

The long-hitting US Open champion overpowered the Phoenix Country Club course in a round blemished only by a bogey at his final hole, where the American's 12-foot par putt failed to drop.

Lee, a winner at the Maekyung Open in South Korea in May, joined Koepka at the top of the Japan Golf Tour event leaderboard with a bogey-free performance.

They headed Angelo Que of the Philippines by one stroke, with world No. 4 Hideki Matsuyama, the 2014 champion, among a group two behind.

Koepka and Matsuyama were able to stake their claim for the title by taking advantage of ideal conditions, with calm weather and receptive greens allowing for attacking golf.

Playing the back nine first, Matsuyama jump-started his round with a 30-foot eagle putt at the par-5 18th, where he read the green perfectly and curled a sharply-breaking putt into the middle of the cup.

Koepka, two groups behind, responded by making four consecutive birdies around the turn.

Among other prominent players in the field, American Xander Schauffele, winner of the Tour Championship in Atlanta, Georgia, in September, carded a 2-under 69, while Ryo Ishikawa battled to a 72.

Previous winners of the tournament include Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Tom Watson and Seve Ballesteros.

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