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.
“I got my putter hot. I’ve been hitting it good Thursday, Friday and today. I made those momentum putts to keep my round going. That was the difference.
“I’ve been hitting it great the last few weeks and so to finally put it all together and hole a few putts was really special.”
Los Angeles native Lipsky started his round with four birdies in a row, and having initially hoped to sneak into the top 10 in Dubai, he admits he may have to now readjust his mindset.
“It’s definitely time to get excited about winning,” he said, still only five shots off the lead.
“I’ve been close a few times between then and now (2014), so to be in contention going into Sunday is what it’s all about for me. I’m hitting the ball great and I’ll take that momentum into tomorrow.”
Addressing his lightening start, he added: “I was talking to my caddie. I said we need to get something going.
“My goal going into the weekend was to try to sneak out a top-10 but obviously that’s changed a little bit. My caddie had me going pretty good today.
“A 64 any day is good but to do it on moving day at DP World is huge. I’m looking forward to tomorrow but I’m really satisfied with how I played today.”
South Africa’s Dylan Frittelli surpassed Lipsky when he signed off with an excellent nine under 63, level with Tyrrell Hatton on Friday, while the likes of Race to Dubai contenders Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood posting sizzling rounds eventually pushed him down into tied 13th.
But Lipsky still believes he can win here, which would see him climb the rankings and set him up beautifully for next season.
“The belief is there that I can win, definitely. With how I’ve been hitting it. I’ve been hitting it great the last few days, so if I keep doing that I’ll be right up there.
“It would be huge to win here. I’ll play Hong Kong next week so take momentum into that and then climb the world rankings and the Order of Merit this year, it would be a big boost for my confidence.
“I don’t think I made a cut during the regular season. So I’m definitely high on the Access List. But yeah, to play well in one of these events, especially the final event of the year, will be good going into next season.
“Just looking at the scores right now on the leaderboard, guys are going low today. I’m happy with what I did and it put me in position for tomorrow hopefully, so we’ll see what happens.”
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.
Thailand and its proud people have gone through emotional turmoil this year – but one of the country’s most beloved sportsmen has risen above it.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat is the only man not to have holed a bogey heading into moving day at the DP World Tour Championship and, on eight-under par, is nicely perched just two shots behind leader Matthew Fitzpatrick.
His performance is the culmination of a recent string of excellent performances on the European Tour, though Thailand has never been far away from his thoughts.
Thais revere their monarchy and the passing of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 2016 started a national year of mourning that only ended in October with his formal funeral.
All the while, 28-year-old Aphibarnrat has flown the Thai flag high and a fine season-ending display in Dubai would be no small way to honour the late king’s memory.
“I’ve tried to do my job. It hasn’t been a good year for Thailand after we lost the king, even though we have a new, fantastic one (Maha Vajiralongkorn),” said Aphibarnrat. “It was a big moment when we lost him, but I’ve tried to carry on and make Thailand proud.
“I’m very proud and really pleased to be part of tournament, there are only 60 players in the field this week and we are just a small country in Asia and I’m playing against the best players in the world.
“It’s my passion and it’s really tough to explain, but I’ll try and do my best to fly the Thai flag.”
For so long one of the more portly characters on tour, Aphibarnrat is ‘getting stronger and striking better’ after losing a whopping 10 kilos in the last four months thanks to a new fitness regime.
However, his form so far in the desert can be put down to his prowess on the greens as a final birdie on the 18th saw him submit a five-under par card of 67.
“The way I started the first two rounds, I’ve put myself in the position to do well now,” added the world No90, who checked into Earth course in 21st on the Race to Dubai.
“It was all about putting. This course is like a putting contest, but you have to hit a good shot as well. “When I hit a bad shot I crumble around the greens and get up and down, so overall my putting was the best part of the first two rounds.”
Whereas a few braved loud colours – Patrick Reed and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, we’re looking at you – and Jon Rahm looked sleek in double turquoise, Scott Hend takes the prize.
In what can be best described as purple camouflage print, Hend found nowhere to hide on the course – not that he would have wanted to. A steady round of 71 has him just three shots off the pace.
— Sport360° (@Sport360) November 17, 2017
Shot of the day
It was quite literally an up and down day for Paul Dunne, who at one point hit himself in the head with a putter in frustration on the way to a two-under day.
The Irishman had no such trouble with his short game on the par five seventh, as his pitch shot from about 35 feet out had just enough loft to roll sweetly into the hole upon landing for an eagle.
Player of the day
By the way he traipsed off the 18th green, Tyrrell Hatton would not have slept easy last night as a joint course record of 62 eluded his grasp due to a mood-dampening bogey.
But he nevertheless cranked up the volume on what was shaping up to be a muted end of the season, having only made par on Thursday. No one came close to matching his card.
— Sport360° (@Sport360) November 17, 2017