Matt Fitzpatrick brushes off illness to take early lead at DP World Tour Championship

US Open champion boosts his hopes of landing Race to Dubai title with bogey-free round of 65 in Dubai

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Matt Fitzpatrick made light of a dry throat and hacking cough as he strengthened his chances of taking the Race to Dubai title.

He claimed a share of the lead after the opening round of the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates.

The 28-year-old Englishman shot a seven-under par 65 to be tied for the lead with his compatriot Tyrrell Hatton.

By the end, he had a six-shot lead over Rory McIlroy, and a nine-stroke advantage over Ryan Fox, who arrived at the event first and second in the rankings respectively.

If the tournament were to have ended now, Fitzpatrick would end the season at the top of the Order of Merit.

There may be plenty of golf to play yet, but the US Open champion was delighted with the start he made with his bogey-free round.

He birdied the first five holes, which might just be a lucky portent for the two-time previous winner.

“I was laughing as I literally said to Billy [Foster, his caddie] yesterday, when we won in 2020, didn't we have four a row?” Fitzpatrick said.

“And then we did have four in a row. We laughed about that, and I made a fifth, so it was a nice start to the day.”

Fitzpatrick said he had “no idea how they are getting on,” referring to the other handful of players who are still in contention to top the money list.

Tommy Fleetwood, his playing partner, ended Round 1 on four-under, which left him in a tie for fifth place – and a projected fourth place finish in the Race to Dubai.

Viktor Hovland, who won in the city earlier in the season when he took the Dallah Trophy at the Dubai Desert Classic, was two-over by the end of his opening 18.

McIlroy’s opening round of one-under-par 71 was patchy at best, given his record around the Earth Course down the years.

The world No 1 put it down to rust after three weeks out of competition, and he is confident he can remedy his position.

“[I was] 3-under through eight holes, so it's not far away,” said McIlroy, who needed a birdied at the 18th to come in under par.

“It's not as if there's anything that I need to drastically work on. Thankfully, there's three rounds left. I need to go out and shoot a good one tomorrow and be ready for the weekend.”

Updated: November 17, 2022, 1:54 PM