Defending champion Matt Fitzpatrick claimed the halfway lead in the DP World Tour Championship after Tommy Fleetwood ensured the Race to Dubai battle would go down to the wire.
Fitzpatrick carded a second consecutive 67 at Jumeirah Golf Estates to reach 10 under par, a shot ahead of the man he beat into second place last year, English compatriot Tyrrell Hatton.
Justin Rose, who would overhaul Fleetwood with a remarkable third consecutive victory on Sunday, was a shot further back alongside Julian Suri and Kiradech Aphibarnrat after a costly three-putt bogey on the 18th.
And that meant Fleetwood had regained the upper hand – albeit by a narrow margin – in his bid to end the season as European number one. A superb 65 lifted him 35 places in the 60-man field and to within two shots of Rose on six under.
“Today was pressure in a different way,” said Fleetwood, who has a lead of 256,738 points over Rose. “If I had shot level par or one under everything is completely out of my hands.
“I’ve kept myself in with a chance of the tournament but it’s only a big round if I keep it going. I don’t know whether Justin will be bothered or not. He is so strong mentally and he knows what he’s doing.
“He’s been in a lot of situations like this and this is my first time, but I’m glad I’ve put my name up there rather than the wrong end of the leaderboard.”
Fleetwood finished his round just moments before Rose started his own and after four birdies and a bogey in his first 15 holes, the former US Open champion needed to birdie the 18th for a share of the lead.
However, Rose missed the green with his approach and three-putted following a poor chip to end the day on a disappointing note.
“The three-wood on the last was an unforced error but then to compound it with a three-putt was very frustrating,” Rose said. “Every permutation is still in play. All I had to do was give myself a chance going into the weekend and that’s what I’ve done.”
Fitzpatrick’s 67 included five birdies and an eagle and ensured he has not been outside the top eight after his last 10 rounds in the event.
“I’ve got nothing to lose,” the 23-year-old said. “I’m not trying to win the Race to Dubai unfortunately. The main focus is on Justin and Tommy and that’s fine with me. If I can sneak in under the radar and win that would be great.”
Hatton was on course to equal or better Rose’s course record of 62 thanks to holing out from 144 yards on the fifth for an eagle and eight birdies, only to bogey the last.
The world number 17 did the same in the final round 12 months ago to lose out to Fitzpatrick.
After having to settle for a 63 this time he said: “It’s a pretty bitter pill to swallow on 18. That hole seems to hate me. Hopefully one day I’ll actually play it well.”
Tommy Fleetwood signalled a fierce determination to clinch a first Race to Dubai title with a brilliant second round in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship.
Olympic champion Justin Rose seized the initiative on Thursday in the battle to be crowned European number one with an opening 66 in Dubai which left him just a shot off the lead held by American Patrick Reed.
Rose trails fellow Englishman Fleetwood by 256,738 points on the money list, but knows a remarkable third consecutive victory would guarantee him the Harry Vardon trophy for the second time.
However, if Rose is third or worse at Jumeirah Golf Estates, Fleetwood can cling on to top spot with a good finish of his own and gave himself a fighting chance with a superb 65 on Friday.
“Today was pressure in a different way,” Fleetwood said after a round containing eight birdies and a solitary bogey. “If I had shot level par or one under today everything is completely out of my hands.
“I’ve kept myself in with a chance of the tournament but it’s only a big round if I keep it going.”
Fleetwood completed his second round just moments before Rose started his own on the same score of six under, with Tyrrell Hatton having set the clubhouse target on nine under after a 63 that was marred only by a bogey on the 18th.
“I don’t know whether Justin will be bothered or not,” Fleetwood said. “He is 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 but he’s on amazing form at the moment. I won’t put it past him carrying it on and shooting another one.”
American Patrick Reed overcame a back injury to lead after the first round of the DP World Championship in Dubai as Justin Rose took a massive step closer to a remarkable Race to Dubai triumph.
Reed carded a flawless 65 at Jumeirah Golf Estates to finish seven under par, a shot ahead of Rose and Australia’s Scott Hend, with defending champion Matt Fitzpatrick part of a six-strong group on five under.
Rose was a distant 10th in the money list until claiming more than 2.3million points with back-to-back victories in China and Turkey and came into the week trailing long-time leader Tommy Fleetwood by 256,738.
That means the Olympic champion needs at least a top-five finish to overhaul Fleetwood, whose 73 suffered hugely in comparison with another superb display from playing partner Rose.
“It looks worse and feels worse,” Fleetwood admitted. “He played flawless golf. I don’t know how long he’s going to keep doing this for but it’s doing my head in.
“To do well I have to improve things myself. I can’t go out and play my round and then go out and watch him and hope he doesn’t do very well.”
Fleetwood admitted he was feeling the pressure as he double-bogeyed the first and dropped another shot on the third, but an eagle on the seventh helped him get back to level par before a three-putt bogey on the 17th.
Rose’s only bogey also came via a three-putt on the ninth, but the 37-year-old holed out from a bunker on the 14th for an eagle in a back nine of 31 and admitted he was now the man to catch.
“It’s probably shifted but tomorrow could be a whole other day,” Rose said.
“This was not really on the radar a month ago. That’s the perspective that I have to keep because it’s an opportunity for me. (It would) certainly be easy to start to think about it now as being in my hands, but I think for me it’s still a bonus at this point.
Ryder Cup star Reed might have something to say about that, with the world number 23 intent on making the most of his surprise place in the field.
Reed thought he had not played enough events to retain his European Tour membership, only to be told that the Presidents Cup counted towards the requirement of five.
“I feel like the hard work I did with my coach right after missing the cut in Mexico really paid off,” Reed said. “I felt like the swing was right where it needed to be and I woke up this morning and had this really awful pain in my back, close to my shoulder.
“The warm-up wasn’t how I wanted. I was kind of spraying it and then my caddie just looked at me and reminded me, ‘Hey, you’re a gamer, not a range guy’.
“Any time you can start birdie, birdie it gets you started and I was able to right the ship and make some putts and hit some good shots.”