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.
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.
It has been a seminal year for Tommy Fleetwood as he looks set to end the campaign as Race to Dubai champion and European No1 at the DP World Tour Championship.
The Englishman took the lead in the European Tour standings after winning in Abu Dhabi in January and has remained in pole position for much of the season, with a second place finish at World Golf Championship and victory at the French Open in July.
With Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia still hot on his tail for the Race to Dubai title, the 26-year-old remains relaxed as he goes into the biggest tournament of his career.
“I don’t want to say like a breakout year, because you don’t know what happens after it, but it’s been the biggest year of my career by a long way,” said Fleetwood.
“I think the goal at the start of the year was to win again. I hadn’t won in three years, whatever it was.
“It’s been like a year of sort of felt like I was reassessing for the first six months because I was on a roll and I just kept having brilliant results.”
The Southport native did have a chance to secure the race last weekend at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa but had to settle for 10th place – with Branden Grace sealing victory on home soil.
Still, Fleetwood will be crowned No1 irrespective of his placing if Rose finishes outside the top five and Garcia fails to win.
“It’s very special to get to The Race to Dubai, you know, the final event, and be playing to win The Race to Dubai. Something I’ve never been done before. I’ve never been close, and it’s something that I didn’t expect to be doing this year,” said Fleetwood.
“I mean, whatever happens, I’ve never done this before, and it will have been a brilliant experience no matter what. I obviously clearly want to win. Don’t know how many chances you’re going to get in your career to do it.
“I think it would have to be that my game can stand up with the best players in the world in the biggest tournaments.”
Fleetwood may only have one top 10 finish in four appearances at Jumeirah Golf Estates – a ninth place finish in 2016 being his best to date – but is relishing the prospect of stepping out for the final 72 holes of a memorable season regardless of whether he lifts the coveted title or not.
“It’s actually an amazing opportunity and it’s a massive privilege to be able to actually be playing,” he said.
“I’m turning up tomorrow, final event of the year and I’m playing with Justin Rose trying to win a Race to Dubai. Sergio could win it, as well. Sergio, Justin Rose and then me; that’s pretty cool, that.”