Dubai: The sun returned to Jumeirah Golf Estates on Day 2 of the DP World Tour Championship and Mike Lorenzo-Vera continued to play the best golf of his life to put himself strongly in contention for a maiden tour victory on European golf’s biggest stage.
The Frenchman, who shot a storming nine-under 63 on Thursday, continued from where he left off to dominate his rivals and the challenging Greg Norman-designed Earth Course with another golfing masterclass that ebbed inside the dreaded ‘Golden Mile’.
Norman’s famed ‘Golden Mile’ is a proven card-wrecking finishing stretch of four holes that features the scary par-three 17th, a watery grave based on the Island Hole at TPC Sawgrass.
Lorenzo-Vera would survive the dangers that lurked on the penultimate hole but succumbed to two holes on the ‘Golden Mile’, which included a calamitous double bogey on the par-four 18th.
Nonetheless, he would finish the round on a three-under 69 for the day which ensured he had a significant three-shot lead over his nearest rival, and now Race To Dubai favourite, Tommy Fleetwood from England.
Fleetwood, the 2017 DP World Tour Champion, lies in second place alongside giant Spaniard Jon Rahm on nine-under.
Another Englishman, Tom Lewis, who is named after the legendary Tom Watson, the sole occupant of the fourth place at seven under, with three time former champion and world No. 2 Rory McIlroy tied for fifth place with Belgian Thomas Pieters and South Africa’s Christiaan Bezuidenhout on six-under.
But all eyes were on Lorenzo-Vera who burst out of the blocks with birdies on the opening two holes. Having complained of feeling ill due to a lung infection, the Frenchman portrayed more positive body language on Friday.
He looked positive, focused and relaxed at the moments he needed to be. But the rigours of the intense pressure of playing at the highest level among Europe’s elite appeared to take its toll on him as he surrendered a five-shot lead at the halfway stage.
“I’m very pleased. I managed to hit the ball where I wanted more or less,” he said. “It was tricky and the wind was blowing pretty solid. In the end, my game was solid. “The last three (holes) are tough, I think.
“Tactically, I know what I have to do, and I know that the winds are going to be different this weekend. I’m not going to push more than what I’m doing now. I am trying to trust my putter 100 per cent and that’s what I can do,” added Lorenzo-Vera, who is based at luxurious seaside tourist destination of Biarritz, a city on the Bay of Biscay in France.
“It was not super enjoyable because it’s tough out there today. I missed a couple of shots at the end and made a three-putt on the last.
Looking ahead to the championship rounds Lorenzo-Vera said: “It’s just the game. I’ve got three shots lead and it’s better than three shots behind. Just going to be stressful because it’s big dogs behind me that are going to try to bite me, so it’s going to be interesting.”
McIlroy, who was the Frenchman’s playing partner on day two, looked totally out of sorts.
Missing were the skills that have earned him the reputation of being one of the best players on the planet.
He looked cautious and as a result had just the one birdie against a confidence busting double bogey on the Par 3 sixth with further trouble to follow on 10 and 13 where he would drop shots to finished the day on two over.
“Obviously just didn’t quite have it today,” he admitted. “Just going to go do a little work on the range and try to figure that out.
“Sort of hung in there. The putts that went in yesterday sort of went over the edges today.
“The wind was sort of tricky and the course played a little trickier, but obviously just didn’t quite play as well as yesterday.”
In stark contrast to the Northern Irishman’s round, Fleetwood appeared to be enjoying himself as he took a stranglehold on the Race to Dubai title
“It was a good day. I played really, really well,” he said. “I stayed very patient. Felt like I did a really good job after the fourth of just playing really good, solid golf.
“It wasn’t easy, the wind really picked up. But it was a pretty tough day. I think anything under par would have been a really solid day, so 4-under, I’m happy with (that).
Round three of the DP World Tour Championship commences at 8.35am with all to play for.
1 Mike Lorenzo-Vera (FRA) -12
2 Tommy Fleetwood (ENG) -9
2 Jon Rahm (ESP) -9
4 Tom Lewis (ENG) -7
5 Christiaan Bezuidenhout (RSA) -6
5 Thomas Pieters (BEL) -6
5 Rory McIlroy (NIR) -6
8 Justin Rose (ENG) -5
8 Marcus Kinhult (SWE) -5
10 Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) -4