Tommy Fleetwood enjoying home comforts at DP World Tour Championship

Englishman moves into contention on day two at his 'local' course

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As a Dubai resident for almost right on a year now, it should probably not surprise that Tommy Fleetwood is well placed at the halfway mark to win the DP World Tour Championship.

After all, the tour’s season finale takes place at Jumeirah Golf Estates, where Fleetwood lives with wife Clare and two sons.

The Earth Course, where this week the top 50 players in the Race to Dubai rankings compete, qualifies as his local course. Fleetwood even has his own academy on site, too.

So, the fact the Englishman fired a 6-under-par 66 in Friday’s second round to move joint top of the leaderboard – Nicolai Hojgaard then stole his thunder, somewhat, with an eagle on the last to sit two clear – seems almost predictable.

For Fleetwood, though, not quite. Familiarity, it turns out, doesn’t necessarily breed competitive advantage.

“Well, yeah, I mean it should do,” he said after signing his card to sit in a quartet on 9-under that includes world No 4 Viktor Hovland. “It's amazing how different they get the course playing.

"Even to go away for [the Nedbank Golf Challenge] last week, come back a week later, and it's amazing how the greens, how much they firm out, how much they speed up in terms of the course.

"So it is playing a lot different to when we ever play it just regularly.”

Still, Fleetwood can reap some benefit when it comes to course knowledge.

“Still standing on the tee and knowing how often you hit the tee shots is nice,” he said. “But at the same time, people have been coming here now for such a long time. This is my, I think, ninth or 10th year playing this tournament. So people are pretty used to the golf course at this point.”

In fact, this year marks Fleetwood’s 11th go at the event. A six-time winner on tour, he came closest in 2019, when he was denied a place in a play-off by Jon Rahm's birdie on the final hole.

Other than that, Fleetwood was tied-5th 12 months ago, and has another couple of top 10s to boot.

“With where we live now, it's very, very, very cool,” he said. “The support from the members and everybody that works at the golf club. It's great to be part of this community for myself and my family.

“And then showing the support this week as well, like they do every other day when I'm here practising or playing or whatever. So it's great to be up there.

“It's great that I've given them something to watch so far and hopefully it's a really cool atmosphere over the next two days. I’m enjoying it a lot. We'll try and keep that going.”

Well, he should aim for that. Fleetwood, the world No 15, leads the field in birdies, with 14, even if he said he felt “uncomfortable” on the greens on Friday until the 10th hole. From there, he reeled off four birdies.

And, as an Order of Merit winner in 2017, he is on track to complete a Dubai double this week.

“No matter what you do in your career, I feel like a chance to win this tournament, it's close to my heart now, this one,” Fleetwood said. “So just looking forward to the weekend.

“I always feel like it brings out great winners, great champions, so the ultimate goal is to be one of those. Put my name on the trophy.

“Halfway there, enjoy that tonight, and get ready to go again tomorrow.”

Together with Hovland, not to mention Tyrrell Hatton and Robert MacIntrye on 7-under, or Jon Rahm on 6-under, Fleetwood is one of a number of European Ryder Cup players chasing down teammate Hojgaard.

Victorious against the United States in Italy last month, as a rookie no less, and runner-up last week at the Nedbank, clearly the Dane is in great form.

“I trust my game at the moment,” said Hojgaard, no doubt buoyed by the three on the 18th that sealed a 66. “It's been a little bit shaky at times this year, but I feel like we're on track at the moment."

To be fair, it hasn't been too bad a season. Hojgaard has eight top 10s, including a couple of seconds. But, of course, victory right before the curtain comes down on 2023 would be rather sweet.

“That would be pretty cool,” he said. “I feel like that's the only thing I missed this season. But there's two rounds to go. There's a lot of really good players in this field I know that's going to be in the hunt the next few days.

"And I'm going to keep grinding as much as I can and put myself around, hopefully, and we'll see on Sunday.”

Updated: November 17, 2023, 6:45 PM