DUBAI, U.A.E. — As ever in any season-ending golf tournament, many possibilities remain halfway through the DP World Tour Championship, the $8 million climax to the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.
If the event were to stop now, after 36 holes, Frenchman Mike Lorenzo-Vera would be a winner on the European Tour for the first time. World No. 10 Tommy Fleetwood, one of the two men tied for second (Jon Rahm is the other) would be crowned European No. 1 for a second time. And Robert MacIntyre? The 23-year-old Scot would be the Old World’s “rookie of the year.”
All conjecture of course. So time for some facts. On a day when a blustery breeze exposed some of the shark’s teeth on the Greg Norman-designed Earth course on the Jumeirah Estate, it was Fleetwood who made the most significant move.
Which is no surprise. Of the five men who arrived in the United Arab Emirates with a chance to top the money list, the Englishman is alone in having been there before. Twice actually. Two years ago, Fleetwood survived a last-day duel with Justin Rose to win the Race to Dubai and last year he was beaten by close friend and Ryder Cup partner, Francesco Molinari.
“Two years ago it was all very new and fresh,” Fleetwood said. “Now I am better prepared for the scenarios that the next couple of days will throw at me. I’m used to it. This is three years in a row where I've been in this situation. Whether I win or not, it won't be down to inexperience and hopefully it won't be down to some sort of mental misjudgment. I might not play well enough, or somebody might play better than me, but overall when I tee off tomorrow, I will know what feelings to expect.”
For the record, the 28-year-old Englishman, a winner last week at the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa, made seven birdies in a four-under-par 68 that took him to nine under par, four shots behind a philosophical Lorenzo-Vera. Retaining a sense of humor despite making two bogeys in his last four holes en route to a 69 that was five shots better than his playing partner, a surprisingly placid Rory McIlroy, the Lorenzo-Vera, 34, came out with the quote of the day.
“Last night I was trying to get everything out of my head,” said the Frenchman, who led after round one with a nine-under-par 63. “But it did not want to go. So I accepted that fact and went on the internet to see what car I’d buy if I won [first prize is $3 million]. And it would be a Ferrari f12 Tdf.”
Further across the acceptance scale, McIlroy could merely shrug after taking 10 shots more than he needed in his opening 64. It could have been worse, too. A sand save on the short 17th was followed by another hard-working par after an unscheduled visit to the stream that bisects the 18th fairway.
“Didn’t quite have it today,” shrugged the Northern Irishman. “One day this game can seem very easy and someone up there says, no, not so fast, and brings you back down to earth. That's golf. I battled through it though. I'm still in with a shout at winning this tournament.”
The same cannot be said for MacIntyre. The usually affable left-hander managed to outscore his nearest rival, Kurt Kitayama, for rookie honors—74-75—but neither left the premises in fine fettle. MacIntyre’s closing words pretty much summed up his day. Asked if he planned to make the range his next stop, the man from Oban’s response was brief and to the point.
“No,” he said. “I’ll just go and snap all the clubs.”
It’s that sort of tournament. Lots of story lines. Lots of emotion.