Masters Champions Patrick Reed and Danny Willett share a one shot lead heading into the final round of the 2018 European Tour season as the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai – the eighth and final Rolex Series event of the year – looks set for a dramatic finish.
The 2018 Masters winner Reed made four birdies in six holes on the back nine to sign for a 67 and set the target at 14 under par at Jumeirah Golf Estates. The American was joined at the summit by Englishman Willett, who triumphed at Augusta National in 2016, as he made three birdies in a row from the 14th in a round of 69.
England’s Jordan Smith also produced a big finish, birdieing three of the last five holes to move into third place at 13 under par. He is one shot clear of fellow Englishmen Matt Wallace and Lee Westwood – who charged up the leaderboard with a bogey-free round of 65 – and South African Dean Burmester.
Englishman Tom Lewis and Adrian Otaegui of Spain are at 11 under par, with two further Major winners in Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson one shot further back alongside defending champion Jon Rahm and India’s Shubhankar Sharma.
Francesco Molinari remains on course to be crowned European Number One despite sitting nine shots off the lead going into the final round, with his closest rival Tommy Fleetwood one shot better off at six under par but in need of a victory to claim back to back Race to Dubai titles.
Danny Willett: “It would be nice to win tomorrow but there’s a lot of golf left, 18 holes. A lot can happen in 18 holes. I’m just happy with the golf game. The golf game is in good shape. The body is feeling good, and like I’ve said, it’s been a long old year with all the stuff that’s gone on and for this to be the last event I’m going to play in this year with a field this good is a real bonus. Going to go out and try and play some good golf tomorrow.
“I think even if we weren’t in contention, just the way that we’ve worked and practiced these last three, four months and what I’ve taken from the range to the golf course and now it’s just each week, it’s felt a little bit better.
“The result might not have come but everything’s been feeling good, and I appreciate this game at times is a little bit tricky when you’re not getting results and you feel like things are good and you feel like you’re knocking your head against the wall. It’s nice to be in this position and nice to be in this position feeling comfortable is more important. It’s fun again.”
Patrick Reed: “It was steady. I didn’t quite have the warm up that I wanted to kind of start the day and get going, but once I got on the golf course, things all seemed to settle out. Even though I was only even par through four, I felt like I really didn’t miss a golf shot at that point. You know, it was a tough flag and awkward number for me on four there, which caused me to put it in the wrong spot and have a three-putt for bogey there. But after that, I just kept on playing well. Kept on hitting the golf ball how I was hitting it all day and just kept allowing the putter to do its work.
“I feel good. I feel like the consistency of my game is where it needs to be. You’re always going to have hot flashes here and there and you’re always going to have kind of low points. I feel like my low points are getting better, and they are more manageable and I can miss the golf ball where I need to miss the golf ball.
“It would mean a lot to win this tournament. Just to be in the situation to be able to come over here and play, with the limited schedule that I play over here on The European Tour, and to have a chance to go out and finish the year off right and win a golf tournament, give myself a little early Christmas gift of a trophy, would be amazing.”
Jordan Smith: “It was nice to make some birdeis in the last few holes and get some momentum. I will definitely go into tomorrow with a lot of confidence and kind of looking forward to it. I don’t think I’ll go in with any expectations. Just going to go enjoy it. Whatever happens, happens. Yeah, I’m just not going to put pressure on myself.
Lee Westwood: “I played great. I got off to a quick start, which I wanted to. I was four under through five. And I gave myself a lot of chances. Could have been out in 7-under quite easily. Just kept plugging away. I’m hitting the ball well and getting it close a lot, so the key is really patience and not getting frustrated when I was hitting good putts and they weren’t going in.
“I just think experience is valuable, whatever you’re doing. Whenever you’ve been in a situation before, it’s got to help. I’m just pleased I shot 65 and got myself in there and closer to the leaders, with the conditions as they are and if the wind stays up, then they may not get too far away from front of me, but I was five under and the lead was 11, so I was six behind and now I’m going to be a couple back. It’s a big improvement and gives me a chance tomorrow.”
Francesco Molinari: “Just another wasted opportunity to be honest but you know, it is what it is. This time of the year, I think I’m trying my best but there’s not a lot in there left. So yeah, a shame, I’m playing well. I’m putting well, but I’m just dropping shots for fun. So it is what it is. One more round, and we’ll see what I can do tomorrow.
“It’s something new I’ve never really experienced this like this and I kind of tried to convince myself that I’m feeling better week-after-week, but then a round of golf and I’m back where I started. I think on Thursday, there was a little bit of adrenaline going and that helped me, definitely, to start with, but at the moment it’s just hard to keep the focus or 18 holes. So as I said, it is what it is. Tomorrow, I feel there’s a low one this there because I’m hitting the ball well and I’m putting well enough; it’s just a matter of doing it for 18 holes.”
Tommy Fleetwood: “I feel the adrenaline might have gone now. I think you kind of know when your time’s up. I lasted within two days of the season. Like I’ve said, it was a stretch trying to win it. But it is what it is. I’ll play tomorrow and we’ll see how we do, but it’s fine. I’m fine. Fit and healthy. I’ll play golf tomorrow and that’s it. I’ll go home and I’ll spend time with my son tonight. At the end of the day, it’s just golf, but it does hurt when you have days like that.”