Fleetwood aims to give Rose a mountain to climb in desert
Tommy Fleetwood has signified to his order of merit rival Justin Rose that he will not have it all his own way in the forthcoming finale in Dubai.
Indeed, if the Englishman can continue the same progress up the leaderboard at the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa, he could leave his world No6 compatriot with a veritable mountain to negotiate in the desert.
In difficult conditions in Sun City, Fleetwood posted a third-round fiveunder 67 to move up 30 places to twounder and into a tie for seventh.
The 26-year-old knows that should he make up the six-shot deficit on Scotland’s Scott Jamieson and win his third title of the season then he will require only a top-18 finish in the DP World Tour Championship to ensure he lifts the Harry Vardon Trophy.
A top-three placing seems more realistic for Fleetwood, but even that would make Rose’s task of replicating his 2007 glory that much more formidable. Fleetwood is currently 130,000 points ahead of his countryman.
At the very least, he will take the positives from this upturn in form.
A 73-74 beginning suggested that after his 20th in Turkey and his 23rd in Shanghai, Fleetwood was stumbling on the run-in, with the Olympic champion breathing down his neck.
“Hats off to Rosey for the way he has played the last couple of weeks, winning back to back [at the WGC-HSBC Champions and last week’s Turkish Airlines Open],” Fleetwood said. “It’s made it an interesting finish, but I could make it a lot more boring if I have a good day tomorrow. It’s still in my hands. I’ve still got to keep doing what I’m doing, and concentrate. Aside from everything that’s going on, it’s one of those tournaments I would love to win. There’s a lot to play for.”
There are some big names between Fleetwood and the pacesetter, not least Ryder Cuppers Martin Kaymer – the German on five-under following a second successive 69 – and the enigmatic Frenchman Victor Dubuisson, a shot off Jamieson following his 71.
Dubuisson, 27, reached as high as 15th in the world in the wake of his 2014 heroics as a rookie at the 2014 Ryder Cup but since then he has tumbled out of the world’s top 150. A third place at last month’s Dunhill Links indicated he was returning to his former self.
The highest Jamieson has even climbed in the world is 68th, but in the last few years the main focus has been on retaining his European Tour card as he has fallen out of the top 250. A victory would be the obvious highlight for the 33-year-old Glaswegian. He won the Nelson Mandela Championship in 2012 but this second win in South Africa would net him £945,000, his largest cheque by more than £700,000.
“There’s still an awful long way to go but if I can do what I did today, I’ll be in with a good shout,” Jamieson said after his 67. “It would be the biggest moment of my career, I’ll be well aware of that tomorrow. I’ve got to see if I can step up to the challenge.”