Patrick Reed moved one shot clear after the opening round of the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, but Justin Rose was in close pursuit as the Englishman aims to make it three successive victories and win the Race to Dubai in the process.
The American 2016 Ryder Cup star Reed posted a flawless seven under par opening 65 early in the day, but all eyes were on the final pairing of Rose and Race to Dubai leader Tommy Fleetwood.
Along with Masters Champion Sergio Garcia, the English duo are battling it out this week to be crowned European Tour Number One and it was the former US Open Champion Rose who stole an early march in the race to the finish line as he signed for a six under 66 to share second place with Scott Hend.
Rose’s round, which included an eagle three at the 14th and a birdie at the last, meant he is now in the driving seat in the projected Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex, after his playing partner Fleetwood struggled to a one over 73 having double-bogeyed the first.
Defending champion Matt Fitzpatrick was one of six players in a share of fourth place on five under par, while Garcia’s hopes of overtaking Fleetwood and Rose remain intact despite the Spaniard opening with two bogeys – he bounced back strongly to finish with a two under 70.
“I felt like ball-striking was where it needed to be. I feel like I had pretty much had control over the golf ball today. It seemed like the tee shots that I didn’t seem to hit particularly well, I missed them in the correct spots.
“I only hit one tee shot where I felt like I didn’t hit it in the right spot and from there I was able to get the ball back in play, hit a wedge shot on the green and make the putt. That’s what you’ve got to do to shoot low numbers around any kind of golf course.
“I’ve always enjoyed playing on both tours and having both memberships. It was a pretty easy decision to kind of come over and play in this event.
“It’s important but really the biggest thing for me is just improving my golf swing, improving around the greens and improving in all areas. I hit the ball well, and putted well. I feel like earlier this year, either I hit the ball well and didn’t make any putts or I hit it great the following day and missed putts. I feel like the hard work I did with my coach right after Mexico really paid off coming into this week.”
“I’m really happy with that as a start. I wanted to come out today with good intent and get myself moving forward quickly.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to have won the last two events, but I’ve been doing so from quite a long way behind and you can’t always rely on that. I was definitely keen today to come out and try and get going as quick as I could and see where it goes from here.
“But I’m delighted with the way I played today. I don’t think I missed a green. The 17th was just off the edge but I gave myself chances all day. It got a little bit windier and trickier towards the end, but I was really happy the way it turned out.”
“I’m just trying to stick with my job and stay in the moment, which I haven’t done in the last couple weeks. I’m just taking small steps towards to where I want to be. That’s just what we’ve been working on.
“It’s all about staying in the moment and trying to hit the same shots you hit on the driving range. I know it sounds very simple and it’s not easy to do, but that’s what us guys playing out here try and do.
“Three days is a long way and this golf course can throw up anything. I’m just going to go about doing my job and try to do the best I can. That’s all I can ask of myself. Probably had a couple months since Crans of not playing well. I think I’ve found the reason why that is.”
“A 67 anywhere is a great start but obviously defending champ as well, it’s probably a little bit extra special I guess. So it’s good to sort of continue where I left off, get off to a good start with a low one.
“That’s the exciting thing. I sort of feel like I’ve been playing quite nicely, and I’ve had a good stretch of weeks. And obviously coming here again, you’re full of confidence, knowing the place like the back of your hand, and doing so well there the year before. It sets up for an exciting week, and you never know. I’ve been playing quite well and it would be nice to finish the year on a high.
“I’ve been doing a bit more press this week being defending champion. But at the same time, Tommy and Rosey and Sergio, they are all under a little more pressure to win the Race to Dubai. I guess it’s a little advantage that I’ve got.”
“I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t a little bit nervous those first couple of holes – obviously with everything that’s going on and it’s my first tournament playing new equipment.
“I relaxed nicely after that. I started hitting some really good shots, and hit some good putts that unfortunately didn’t go in. I made a good come back. It wasn’t that easy in the last seven or eight holes. It got a little breezy with some tough holes out there. But you know, I am pretty pleased with a couple under at the end of the day.”
“The start was shocking. I gifted the first with the double, should have made five at worst on the second – I should have made a birdie there. I was giving shots away early on.
“I played all right, it was such an up-and-down day. I missed a couple of short putts, holed a couple of decent ones but I just need to do better.
“There were a bit of nerves there. There’s always going to be. I’ve never been in this position before, so a bit of nerves. It all comes down to this at the end of the year and playing for like the biggest achievement in my career essentially.
“There are three more days. It is actually kind of out of my hands all of a sudden. I’ve just got to go out and do my best.”
65 P Reed (USA) ,
66 S Hend (Aus) , J Rose (Eng) ,
67 F Zanotti (Par) , R Fox (Nzl) , M Fitzpatrick (Eng) , A Levy (Fra) , A Björk (Swe) , P Dunne (Irl) ,
68 N Colsaerts (Bel) , A Sullivan (Eng) , M Kaymer (Ger) , D Horsey (Eng) , S Kjeldsen (Den) , J Suri (USA) ,
69 P Larrazábal (Esp) , J Rahm (Esp) , S Lowry (Irl) , K Aphibarnrat (Tha) , F Molinari (Ita) ,
70 C Schwartzel (RSA) , G Coetzee (RSA) , I Poulter (Eng) , C Wood (Eng) , D Lipsky (USA) , D Burmester (RSA) , H Porteous (RSA) , A Dodt (Aus) , P Waring (Eng) , S Garcia (Esp) , M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra) ,
71 J Wang (Kor) , A Otaegui (Esp) , D Frittelli (RSA) , P Uihlein (USA) , B Wiesberger (Aut) , R Sterne (RSA) , R Fisher (Eng) , M Pavon (Fra) ,
72 T Hatton (Eng) , M Warren (Sco) , R Ramsay (Sco) , B Grace (RSA) , C Shinkwin (Eng) , L Haotong (Chn) ,
73 H Tanihara (Jpn) , R Cabrera Bello (Esp) , T Fleetwood (Eng) , J Luiten (Ned) , D Drysdale (Sco) ,
74 A Noren (Swe) , T Pieters (Bel) , T Olesen (Den) ,
75 L Bjerregaard (Den) , J Smith (Eng) , L Westwood (Eng) , V Dubuisson (Fra) , E Pepperell (Eng) ,
76 G Storm (Eng) , S Jamieson (Sco) ,