Dubai: Victor Perez, a 28-year-old Frenchman, set the early pace with a five-under 67 to take the first round lead at the DP World Tour Championship on the Earth Course of Jumeirah Golf Estates on Thursday.
The season finale of the European Tour, known as the Race to Dubai, got off to an engrossing start with the trio of Briton Matthew Fitzpatrick, Erik Van Rooyen of South Africa and Scotsman Robert Macintyre tied in second position after carding 68s. Another pack of four, which includes Tommy Fleetwood, placed second in the Race to Dubai standings and 2017 champion, UAE veteran Martin Kaymer, Tyrrell Hatton, and Finalnd’s Sami Valimaki tied for fifth a shot further back.
Perez started the week at No. 6 in the standings and his impressive first round, during which he made long birdie putts on Nos. 11, 14 and 17, leaves him well-poised after the first day’s action. The putt at the 14th came from off the green, Perez using his 3-wood to roll the ball up the slope and down into the cup. “As always on these tough courses, tough pins today, they really put up a good set-up with some of the pins,” Perez said.
“It was just about holing a few good putts, driving the ball well, doing everything fairly well but obviously making a few putts. In the position I’m in, I have nothing to lose. I have everything to gain. So for me it’s really a going-for-it mentality that I have to keep for four rounds... It’s a matter of making a lot of birdies,” Perez said.
Meanwhile, Patrick Reed, the 2018 Masters champion who is in pole position to become the first American to win the Race to Dubai title, is three shots behind Perez at 70 but these are still early days.
Fleetwood rolled in a birdie at the last hole for a 69 and was sitting pretty in the race. Reed also birdied in the 18th after an approach to four feet and had a bogey-free 70.
Henrik Stenson, the two-time Race to Dubai-winning Swede and an extremely popular name here, and British veteran Lee Westwood were off to decent starts at three shots behind leader Perez.
Collin Morikawa, the US PGA Championship winner, was at even par. He is third in the ‘Race’ and — like Reed — looking to become the first American to win what was formally known as the Order of Merit title on the European Tour.
The fight to be crowned Europe’s No. 1 golfer in the 2020 season is wide open, with any of the leading 60 players in the standings mathematically in with a chance of becoming champion because there are so many points at stake in Dubai.
-5 Victor Perez (France) 67
-4 Matthew Fitzpatrick (England) 68
-4 Robert MacIntyre (Scotland) 68
-4 Erik Van Rooyen (South Africa) 68
-3 Tommy Fleetwood (England) 69
-3 Tyrrell Hatton (England) 69
-3 Martin Kaymer (Germany) 69
-3 Sami Valimaki (Finland) 69
-2 Sean Crocker (USA) 70
-2 Jamie Donaldson (Wales) 70
-2 Gavin Green (Malaysia) 70
-2 Garrick Higgo (South Africa) 70
-2 Jazz Janewattananond (Thailand) 70
-2 Patrick Reed (USA) 70
-2 Callum Shinkwin (England) 70
-2 Henrik Stenson (Sweden) 70
-2 Lee Westwood (England) 70