'Captain America' Patrick Reed closes in on Race to Dubai crown

The redoubtable American holds a two-stroke lead over Matthew Fitzpatrick at season-ending DP World Tour Championship

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With 61 of the 65 players coming into this week in with a mathematical shout of sealing the Race to Dubai, such has been this anomalous 2020, Patrick Reed is intent on rendering redundant almost all calculations.

The American arrived at the DP World Tour Championship as the Race leader, one of only four men who'd guarantee the season-long title should he capture the season-ending event.

At the halfway point at Jumeirah Golf Estates (JGE), Reed sits atop the standings in both. A brilliant 8-under par 64 around the Earth Course on Friday - the low round of the day - lifted him to 10-under for the tournament, giving him a two-stroke lead over Matthew Fitzpatrick in second.

Maintain this position right through until the close of play Sunday, and Reed will become the first American to land the European Tour’s Order of Merit.

Yet, with the myriad projections involved, the 2018 Masters champion is not getting caught up in the A-plus-grade arithmetic.

Basically, ignorance is bliss.

Really the way I'm looking at it is everyone is starting at zero, trying to go out and win the golf tournament

“Honestly, I haven't really looked,” said Reed, who finished runner-up at JGE two years ago. “Throughout the week I haven't looked at it.

“I obviously know where I stand going into the week. I know that if I win the golf tournament or finish second alone that, unless there's one or two guys that win the golf tournament, I end up winning the Race to Dubai.

“Really the way I'm looking at it is everyone is starting at zero, trying to go out and win the golf tournament. And if you take care of business and win the golf tournament, then the Race to Dubai will take care of itself.”

Play like he did on Friday, with nine birdies - he went out in 31 - and a solitary drop shot, and he’ll most probably take home both trophies.

“I'm happy in the position I'm in, obviously,” Reed said. “As a whole, any time you have the lead you're always going to be pleased. You put yourself in position going into the weekend to have a shot at it, and that's all you can ask for: giving yourself a chance to win a golf tournament.”

Given the chasing pack, though, Reed shouldn’t have it all his own way. For starters, Fitzpatrick won the DP World Tour Championship (DPWTC) in 2016, and would have been right up alongside Reed had he not recorded an additional two bogeys to him on Friday.

In the end, Fitzpatrick signed for a 68 that included a still-impressive seven birdies, rounded off nicely with a cracker on the par-3 17th.

“This is a golf course I love,” he said. “It's a course I've played well around before, and I'm really, really looking forward to the weekend. It made me laugh: I was thinking me and Patrick were one of the earlier groups last year, bringing up the rear, so it's nice to have the opposite this year.”

Ready to witness Reed up close again, Fitzpatrick knows how difficult the Texan will be to dislodge.

“Yeah, he is,” he said. “He's obviously a fantastic player. Patrick has got a brilliant short game. Don't get me wrong, his whole-round game is brilliant, but I've always admired him for his chipping and pitching.

“When he is going to be out of position tomorrow, which is inevitable, everyone is - that's just the way golf is - in my mind I back him to get up-and-down nine times out of ten. You wouldn't necessarily say that for some players, but he's one of those guys.

“So it's definitely going to be a grind. I'm really looking forward to obviously the challenge, and just like I say, to be in that last group is always exciting.”

The chasing pack

Laurie Canter and Tyrrell Hatton sit one further back on 7-under, after a 66 and 68 respectively, while Tommy Fleetwood and Lee Westwood, two of the quartet certain to seal the Race crown with a DPWTC triumph, lurk ominously on 6-under.

Fleetwood won the Race to Dubai in 2017, and was second and third the past two years. Westwood, meanwhile, has twice been European No 1, and captured the inaugural DPWTC, in 2009.

So he and Fleetwood enjoy an advantage over Reed in that regard: they can lean on invaluable past experience.

“I think you have to keep playing each shot as it comes,” Fleetwood said after a second successive 69. “Experience in that kind of pressure is priceless, and you never quite know what's going to happen or how it's going to unfold.

“You just grow more comfortable with it. You just learn. It's like being in contention for tournaments. I guess Ryder Cups... I've only played one, but you look at Lee who's played nine Ryder Cups, I'm sure he feels very, very comfortable.

“Experience is just something that you can't buy, you can't teach. You have to have been there. I've been there and lucky enough, again, I've made it this far in the season.

"We've got two days left and I'm still in with a chance to win the whole thing, which is something to be very happy about. And hopefully I can be here tomorrow night with one more day left still with a chance.”