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Fitzpatrick makes case for the defence in Dubai

Matthew Fitzpatrick © Getty Images
Matthew Fitzpatrick © Getty Images

Matt Fitzpatrick’s title defence of the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai continued apace on a thrilling second day at Jumeriah Golf Estates as the Englishman carded a five under 67 to move one shot clear, as the tussle to win the Race to Dubai also gathered momentum.

Fitzpatrick was afforded the rare luxury of coming into the final event of the European Tour season under the radar despite claiming the title last year and entering the week on an imperious run of results.

The 23 year old has been revelling in his underdog status in the final of eight Rolex Series events in 2017, and he edged clear at the top on ten under courtesy of a round which included an eagle at the 14thand a birdie at the last.

Tyrrell, who claimed back-to-back victories in October, Hatton fired a scorching nine under 63 early in the day to move into outright second place on nine under.

Meanwhile, the battle to be crowned European Tour Number One is building towards a thrilling crescendo as Tommy Fleetwood roared back into contention to win the Race to Dubai.

With his main challenger, Justin Rose, making a brilliant start on Thursday with a six under 66, Fleetwood posted a disappointing opening 73 to put Rose in the driving seat to leapfrog Fleetwood at the top of the Rankings.

But Fleetwood showed his mettle in round two, producing a fine 65 to Rose’s 70 to move within two strokes of his opponent and reach the halfway point of the season’s finale back at the top of the projected Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex.

Player quotes

Matt Fitzpatrick

“It was great to obviously hole the 25-footer on the last. I said to my caddie Jamie, we were putting really well all week so far and all day today. It was actually the first one from that sort of that length we felt like was a fairly easy read, right-to-left and slightly downhill. That’s all there was to it.

“I think it’s one of those things – I’ve got nothing to lose. I’m not trying to win The Race to Dubai unfortunately. I won here last year, so I’ve got nothing to lose. Obviously it would be nice to defend but you know sort of the odds when you’re coming into the tournament, there are great players at the top of the leaderboard already.

“I think the only thing I would say is that I did win last year, and that probably gives me a little bit more confidence than everyone else, maybe apart from Rosey because he’s won the last two starts. I’m just looking forward to the weekend and delighted that I could put myself in position.”

Tyrrell Hatton

“Obviously if you said at the start of the day I would shoot nine-under, I would be over the moon. It was a retty bitter pill to swallow on 18 though. That hole seems to hate me. Hopefully one day I’ll actually play it well.

“OverallI’m really happy with today. Obviously my head is a bit all over the place after 18. It was nice to hole putts again. That was a big thing today. There was a little substitution with the putter from yesterday, so that seemed to work well.

“If I can keep putting like that for the rest of the tournament, then hopefully on Sunday, I’ll give myself a good chance. But I felt a lot better today. Yesterday, I was struggling with cramps in my back and a horrific blister on my foot. It’s just the blister now, so a spoonful of cement at dinner and I’ll be all right tomorrow.”

Justin Rose

“It’s actually a tricky one to try to sum up. I drove the ball really well, which obviously set up an opportunity to shoot a really good score. I would say the putter was the weakest link today.

“I had a really hard time reading the greens. That was what I found the hardest, Ireated quite a few good chances, especially on the back nine again.

“The front nine was steady enough to be honest. I had a couple lucky breaks there at 7 and 8 but then couldn’t quite capitalize with wedges in my hand at 10 and 11. So I think was a day that could have been a couple better but for the putter.

“I was aware of Tyrrell earlier. I knew there was a good score to be had out there but from Tommy’s point of view it’s a great bounce-back after yesterday. Like I tried to say all week, it doesn’t really make much difference to me in my mind-set.

“It might make a difference on Sunday because I know there’s tons of permutations still. But in terms of my task, it doesn’t make too much difference.”

Tommy Fleetwood

“It’s all about how you react to stuff, isn’t it. Yesterday I was really happy with how I reacted early on. I got off to a bad start and got back into it and I didn’t really play great. I missed a couple of putts and it was like one of those rounds.

“It was a big day. But today, you have to get over it, you move on, and there are still three rounds of golf left to play. Now there are two. My swing felt a lot better, I was on the putting green until dark last night. You know, today was just a much better today.

“I don’t know if Justin will be bothered or not. He’s so strong mentally and he knows what he’s doing. He’s been in a lot of situations like this. This is my first time. But I’m glad I’ve put my name up there.

“At least my name is somewhere now, rather than the wrong end of the leaderboard. You still have to go out and shoot scores. He’s on amazing form at the moment. You know, I won’t put him past it carrying it on and shooting another one.”