DP World Tour Championship: Congested leaderboard tees up a dramatic finale in Race to Dubai

Patrick Reed firmly in the hunt to become first American to win the European Tour Order of Merit, but he faces stiff competition from a number of rivals

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 12: Matthew Fitzpatrick of England and Patrick Reed of The United States of America bump fists on the 18th green during Day 3 of the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates on December 12, 2020 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
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Well, if it all comes down to this, in both the battle for the DP World Tour Championship and the Race to Dubai, then fans of the European Tour are in for a treat on Sunday.

With one round to play at Jumeirah Golf Estates, and subsequently in the 2020 season, Race leader Patrick Reed shares tournament top spot with Matthew Fitzpatrick, the 2016 winner in Dubai, and the in-form Laurie Canter. Reed is the 2018 Masters champion, no less.

On 11-under, the trio sits one ahead of a four-strong group highlighted by Lee Westwood, the inaugural DP World Tour Championship (DPWTC) winner and already a two-time European No 1. Alongside him? Only reigning Rookie of the Year Robert MacIntyre, fast-rising star Viktor Hovland and Spain’s Adri Arnaus.

Danny Willett, meanwhile, is lurking on 8-under, one back from Finland's Sami Valimaki. Like Reed, Willett owns a Green Jacket, and two years ago captured the DPWTC as well.

Looking, though, at the scrap for the season-long title, Reed or Westwood would seal it should either get over the line in the DPWTC. Yet, even with the opportunity to become the first American to snaffle the Order of Merit, Reed continues to trot out the party line: namely, focusing solely on taking it the old “one shot at a time”.

“Trying not to really think about [the tournament] honestly,” he said having birdied the last on Saturday to rescue a 1-under-par 71. He began the day with a two-shot lead.

“If it happens, it would be unbelievable,” Reed added. “It was always a goal of mine obviously to win golf tournaments, but to win this one and also the Race to Dubai, and be the first American, would be amazing.

“We've got a long day ahead of us tomorrow. We still have a full 18 holes left. You can't really sit back there and think as much about that as just stay in the present and try to play some good golf.”

Reed won’t need reminding what he’s up against. Not only the weight of history, but in Westwood, someone who’s got the two trophies already on his CV.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 12: Laurie Canter of England hits his tee-shot on the first hole during Day Three of the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates on December 12, 2020 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Laurie Canter shares the lead with Matthew Fitzpatrick and Patrick Reed. Getty Images

The Englishman, who kicked off the season by winning in Abu Dhabi, doubled-bogeyed the par-3 4th on Saturday, then rebounded brilliantly. He reeled off five birdies - four in five holes to start the back nine - to sign for a 68.

Even more impressive, given Westwood came into the week with a troublesome back.

“I'm not quite 100 per cent,” he said. “Kind of niggling a little in my lower back. So I get around 14, 15, I start to feel it.

“No complaints or excuses. I'm swinging it as good as I have all year and hit it further than I have all year.”

Considering what’s on the line, the pressure pinches too. And, remember, Westwood’s won 25 times on the tour and played in nine Ryder Cups.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 12: Lee Westwood of England lines up a putt on the 17th green during Day 3 of the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates on December 12, 2020 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Lee Westwood is in a group of four players one shot behind the leaders. Getty Images

“Yeah, it’s very different because you have little things creeping into your mind all the time that drag you away from your process and what you really should be focusing on,” he said. “So it's a distraction if you let it be.”

For others, it’d be easy to divert attention, what with so many permutations and projections in the Race. For example, Fitzpatrick came into the week 16th in the standings, but grab a second DPWTC win and other things go his way, and the European No 1 could be his. He goes out in the penultimate group, with MacIntyre in toe.

“Honestly wasn't really on my radar coming into the week,” Fitzpatrick said after birdieing 18 to post a 69. “I'm realistic about these things. I knew I needed a lot of results to go my way, and I need to play well myself. I was just concentrating on playing well and, if the rest takes care of itself, then happy days.”

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 12: Danny Willett of England reacts on the 18th hole during Day 3 of the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates on December 12, 2020 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Danny Willett, winner of this tournament in 2018, is in contention heading into the final round. Getty Images

Out after him with Reed, Canter is seeking a first Tour victory having come close before: he’s two seconds in his past six starts.

As a Rolex Series event, the DPWTC carries a $3 million first prize and three-year exemption. Pretty decent one, then, to break the duck.

“Yeah, I guess,” Canter said following his 68. “To be honest I haven't thought about it that much. I guess if you put my name next to the rest of the top-10, it would change my life more than the other nine guys, let's be honest.

“Let's see. Right now, I just need a good feed and then have a good sleep, wake up tomorrow and see what I turn up with and obviously do my best.”