Justin Rose has the chance to win three successive tournaments for the first time in his career on Sunday but the new leader of the DP World Tour Championship isn’t putting any pressure on himself.
He simply described his chance to win the European Tour’s season-ending Race to Dubai tournament as an “opportunity”.
Rose takes a one-shot lead into the final day after posting a bogey-free round of 65 on Saturday, which included seven birdies – four of which came on the last seven holes.
The Englishman has won on his last two European Tour starts – the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open – knowing another victory would see him overtake compatriot Tommy Fleetwood and be crowned Europe’s number one for the second time.
Should Rose finish solo second on Sunday, Fleetwood would have to win to claim the Harry Vardon Trophy, with a host of permutations also in play as long as Rose finishes in the top five.
“You couldn’t have scripted it much better,” said Rose after signing for a round of -7 under.
“Tommy’s last two rounds of golf have been incredible. He’s there should I make any mistake. He’s doing everything he needs to do, I’m doing everything I need to do. So it’s set up for a wonderful final day.
“It’s an opportunity, that’s the way I’m going to look at it. I don’t see much pressure on myself tomorrow. This is going to be a day just to go for it really and play well.
“It’s not going to be the kind of day where, say, 10 years ago when I had a big lead just try to hang on. It’s not going to be that kind of day tomorrow. There’s going to be a lot of good players and it’s going to be a day where you have to play good golf.”
Victory for the 37-year-old Englishman would add to a long list of accolades. He won the European Tour’s Order of Merit in 2007, taking over Ernie Els and holding off a late surge from defending champion Padraig Harrington.
He has since gone on to win the 2013 US Open and even a gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games. Fleetwood is in a very similar position to Rose a decade ago, having led the Race to Dubai standings for a long period.
And Rose isn’t sure he is the favourite, just because he is 11 years Fleetwood’s senior and has been in this position before.
“There’s two ways to think about it,” he said.
“Tommy’s had the pressure of leading all year. He’s now being chased down. It’s going to feel different for him.
“I’ve played today with a lot of freedom, like I had nothing to lose. Does that feel strange because I’m now leading in to tomorrow? I see it as an opportunity and I think it’s going to take a great round of golf to win this. There’s so many guys in it.”
One of those guys is Rose’s playing partner from Saturday, Jon Rahm, who was also superb in posting an identical 65, despite opening with two fives.
He holed eight birdies in all, including three on the final four holes to take a share of second, one shot behind Rose.
And despite being at the top of the board, Rose says there are too many players on his heels to predict what will happen on Sunday.
“We (Rose and Rahm) had a great time out there,” said Johannesburg-born Rose.
“He’s playing great golf. I think everybody played great golf today. I saw Tommy’s name creep up on the board. It’s brilliant. It’s just so much fun and a ton of guys tomorrow. It’s really condensed.
“A one-shot lead with a pack like that behind you doesn’t mean much. It’s just going to be whoever comes out tomorrow and really plays well.”
Rahm, 23, the newly-crowned European Tour Rookie of the Year, was happy with his near-flawless day.
“I’m kind of a perfectionist. I always find flaws. But to be honest, it was as close to a flawless round as I’m going to play,” said the Spaniard.
“At number one, I had hit a perfect driver; it just went in the bunker. But besides that the rest was absolutely flawless.
“If this doesn’t build momentum, I don’t know what’s going to. My last 27 holes, I’m 13-under par. Take into account the back nine yesterday [Saturday] and the round today. I’m feeling good. Hopefully I can keep doing the same thing tomorrow [Sunday].”
He hasn’t won a European Tour event in three years but David Lipsky hopes his lowest round of the year will put him in contention for a first success since 2014.
Victory has eluded the world number 151 since he beat Graeme Storm to claim the Omega European Masters three Septembers ago, but the American whipped up a storm on Saturday with the second lowest round of the weekend to put him in with a shot of glory.
Plenty more opponents scored superbly after he finished with a stunning eight under par to eventually take him out of a share of the lead, but Lipsky admitted moving day at the DP World Tour Championship had been “special”.
“It was great to put everything together today,” said the 29-year-old, who ended up slipping down into a share of 13th with Sergio Garcia and overnight leader Matt Fitzpatrick.
“I played really well the last round at Nedbank and thought I had something going. I was a little flat Thursday and Friday so it was nice to get it going today.
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 10th on the money list until earning 2.3million 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 number one 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 Saturday’s effort including eight birdies in the last 11 holes and a back nine of 30.
“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.