Justin Rose is on course to clinch the most remarkable Race to Dubai title in European Tour history after claiming a slender lead in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship.
Rose was a distant tenth on the money list until earning 2.3 million points with back-to-back wins in China and Turkey and a third straight victory in Dubai would see him end the season as European No.1 for a second time.
The Olympic champion carded a third round of 65 at Jumeirah Golf Estates to finish 15 under par, a shot ahead of playing partner Jon Rahm and South Africa’s Dylan Frittelli, whose 63 was the lowest score of the week.
And, although Race to Dubai leader Tommy Fleetwood overcame a slow start to match Rose’s score and remain two behind alongside Dean Burmester and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Rose has the upper hand in what has become a thrilling battle.
“You couldn’t have scripted it much better,” Rose said after a round containing seven birdies and a crucial par save on the 18th, where his approach found the water in front of the green.
“Tommy’s last two rounds have been incredible and he is right there should I make any kind of mistake. He is doing everything he has to do and I’m doing the same, so it’s perfectly set up for Sunday.
“Tommy’s had the pressure of leading all year and I played with a lot of freedom because I had nothing to lose. Does that change now? I just see it as a great opportunity and the course doesn’t know I’ve won two in a row. When I step on the first tee tomorrow that’s irrelevant.”
Fleetwood came into the week with a lead of 256,738 points and has recovered from an opening 73 with consecutive rounds of 65, with yesterday’s effort including eight birdies in the last 11 holes and a back nine of 30.
“I will be gutted if I don’t win, but made up for Justin because he will deserve it,” Fleetwood, 26, said. “It’s been an absolute pleasure trying to win a Race to Dubai coming down these last few weeks.
“It’s a massive thing, the biggest thing I’ve ever tried to achieve. I was in contention in the US Open and in [the WGC event in] Mexico, but they were like one or two rounds. This has been all year and it’s come down to the final event.
“A year and a half ago I was absolutely nowhere in the game, I was a bit lost. This is a different pressure to Wentworth last year [the BMW PGA Championship] when I didn’t want to play because I was scared I would not get it off the first tee.
“This is what you practise for and this is what you play for, but having my seven-week old baby here will do a good job of keeping my mind off it.”
On a day of low scoring which saw Eddie Pepperell criticise the course set-up as “too easy” after his own 66, overnight leader and defending champion Matt Fitzpatrick was one of only six players in the 60-man field who failed to break par.
Fitzpatrick could only manage a level-par 72 to fall five shots off the pace.
Richie Ramsay, the leading Scot, is tied for 38th after a 68 left him four under. One shot further back is Scott Jamieson following an impressive third-round 66. David Drysdale (69) is two under and Marc Warren (68) is level.