Justin Rose made the best start of the three players looking to become Europe’s top player for 2017 at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai with a six-under-par 66 on Thursday.
An eagle from the greenside bunker on the 14th hole and a stunning approach shot to two feet for birdie on the 18th handed the Englishman the early initiative in his attempt to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai crown.
The other two players in contention for the crown — Tommy Fleetwood and reigning Masters champion Sergio Garcia — opened with rounds of 73 and 70, respectively.
Patrick Reed of the United States was the first-round leader after shooting seven-under 65.
Fleetwood had a lead of 256,737 points going into the final event of the season and needs to equal or better Rose’s finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn’t finish in the top five and Garcia doesn’t win, Fleetwood will have done enough.
Sixth-ranked Rose is chasing his third straight tournament success after wins in China and Turkey.
“Really happy with that as a start,” the Olympic champion said Thursday at Jumeirah Golf Estates. “I kind of wanted to come out today with good intent and sort of get myself moving forward quickly.”
Fleetwood started poorly, making a double bogey on the first and then missing a short birdie putt on the second before another bogey on the third.
But the Englishman was hopeful of getting his act together over the next three rounds.
“As of right now, it is kind of out of my hands a little bit after that start, but you never know what can happen,” Fleetwood said. “Three days to go, that’s the luxury of four rounds of golf. I’ve got three more to go, and let’s see what happens.”
Australia’s Scott Hend (66) shares second place with Rose, while defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick of England started with a five-under 67. Sweden’s Henrik Stenson — the reigning Race to Dubai champion — is out with a rib injury.
Kirk has one-shot lead at RSM Classic
Chris Kirk holed an 18-foot putt for eagle on his final hole for a nine-under 63 and a one-shot lead in the RSM Classic at St. Simons Island, Ga.
Kirk played the par-five holes on the Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club at five under Thursday. The seven lowest scores of the opening round came on the Plantation Course during a picturesque afternoon on the Golden Isles.
Joel Dahmen had a 64, while the group at 65 included Sea Island resident Hudson Swafford, Jason Kokrak and Brian Gay. Nick Watney and Brice Garnett each had a five-under 65 on the Seaside Course, which will be used for the final two rounds.
Kirk won at Sea Island four years ago for the second of his four PGA Tour victories. The RSM Classic is the final PGA Tour event of the calendar year.
Park leads LPGA tournament
LPGA rookie Sung Hyun Park took a big first step toward sweeping all the season awards with a five-under 67 to finish one shot behind after the opening round of the CME Group Tour Championship.
Peiyun Chien of Taiwan and Sarah Jane Smith both shot 66 on a breezy day at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Fla. Neither has a chance at the $1-million bonus this week.
Of the leading five players for the CME Race to the Globe, Park got off to the best start. She saved par after two poor shots on the par-5 14th with a short iron, and then added a pair of birdies late in her round.
Shanshan Feng, in her debut at No. 1 in the world, had a 70. Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Race to the Globe, hit her opening tee shot into a hazard and her day never got much better. She opened with a 71.