Putting practice makes perfect for Race to Dubai leader Tommy Fleetwood

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Fleetwood worked on his putting until sundown after a poor first-round.

Tommy Fleetwood worked on his putting until sundown after a frustrating first round and a new dawn breathed new life into the Race to Dubai leader’s challenge at the DP World Tour Championship.

The rubber stamp was hovering just above Fleetwood’s name on the European Tour’s Order of Merit before Justin Rose, in the space of two tournaments, gave his fellow Englishman something to worry about.

Back-to-back wins at the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open had catapulted Rose into second and Fleetwood had clearly felt the 2013 US Open champion’s breath on his neck in Dubai during a nervy first round of 73.

An early start beckoned for Fleetwood on Friday and, in response, he drained four birdies on the front nine while most of the crowd were still filtering through the gates.

Another four birdies arrived after the turn and the 26-year-old put his feet up momentarily knowing his round of 65, putting him in a tie for 11th, keeps a third-placed Rose at arm’s length.

“Every day is a new day,” said Fleetwood. “I worked on my putting till dark on Thursday night. Although I actually made some decent putts, that was sort of something that I wanted to work on.

“I warmed up really well and my swing felt a lot better – Thursday was a big day for me. It was something that I had never experienced before and I got off to a nervy start.”

In contrast, nerves never seem to penetrate Rose’s aura but rare errors on the last saw him slip down to third and hand the initiative at halfway back to Fleetwood.

Experience remains on the side of Rose, who has won the Henry Vardon Trophy before, and Fleetwood knows he has a job on his hands to match his rival’s momentum.

“He’s so strong mentally and he knows what he’s doing,” Fleetwood said of Rose. “He’s been in a lot of situations like this.

“This is my first time. But I’m glad I’ve put my name up there. At least my name is somewhere now, rather than the wrong end of the leaderboard. You still have to go out and shoot scores. He’s on amazing form at the moment and I won’t put him past it carrying it on and shooting another one.

“But I’m glad within myself that I played well today. Yesterday, I left the course feeling a little bit – not down – but that it was a kind of sour day, so it’s nice.”

As it stands Fleetwood leads Rose by a mere 15,000 points as both enter the final straight in the race for a winner’s cheque worth $1.25m.

Fleetwood will resist the temptation of taking a calculator out on course with him – if all goes to plan, the maths will remain in his hands.

“You just can’t do it, it’s so easy to slip into working everything out,” added Fleetwood. “If I was further back I’d maybe think about it more because maybe my golf wouldn’t count so much.

“I’ve just got to do similar processes as I did on (Thursday night), you know what you need to work on and I can get away.

“I’m lucky that I have my fiancée and my son out so there’s no chance thinking about anything else when I’m with them, so that’s really helpful that I’m not sat in bed with my head spinning about where I’m at.”

Tyrrell Hatton’s temper has, on occasion, got the better of him but so far there has been no friction between him and his new caddie – who just so happens to be his best friend.

Since handing the bag to childhood pal Jonathan Bell at the British Masters in October, Hatton has put together six consecutive top-20 European Tour finishes including victories at the Alfred Dunhill Links and Italian Open.

And yesterday he shot back into contention at the DP World Tour Championship, with a bogey on the 18th his only blemish in a scintillating round of 63.

His on-course behaviour can rub people the wrong way – former pro Gary Evans called his body language during the British Masters earlier this season a ‘disgrace’ – but the presence of Bell is clearly releasing much of the tension.

“We get on really well and we’ve known each other since we were seven years old. Between shots we can have a bit of fun and chat about whatever, so it takes your mind off golf,” admitted Hatton.

“I’ve had two good caddies previous that had worked on tour for a while, but it’s just refreshing to have a friend on the bag.

“You’re spending a lot of time away from home, and when you’ve already got a good relationship, you can just have a bit of fun.”

Hatton is in the thick of an English vanguard at Jumeirah Golf Estates, sandwiched between leader Matthew Fitzpatrick and Justin Rose on nine-under par heading into day three.

But a challenge at the top looked unlikely after making par on Thursday before a late addition to the 25-year-old’s bag turned his tournament around.

“I sort of struggled (on Thursday),” said the world No17. “I was using a different putter, although it’s the same sort of shape I’ve been using. I think it was a slightly different weight and I wasn’t comfortable with it, along with my own body not feeling too great.

“I was struggling with cramps in my back and a horrific blister on my foot. It’s just the blister now, so a spoonful of cement at dinner and I’ll be all right tomorrow.”

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