By Matt Smith
Spanish world No. 5 Jon Rahm held steady while others wobbled to surge the front on Day 3 of the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates on Saturday, setting the stage for a thrilling finale to the season in Dubai.
With overnight leaders Matt Fitzpatrick and Tyrrell Hatton faltering somewhat, Rahm scorched the Earth Course in Dubai with a blistering 65 to reach 15-under, one ahead of US Open champ Fitzpatrick, who is also attempting to beat world No. 1 Rory McIlroy to the season-long DP World Tour Rankings race.
That is easier said than done, as Rahm looks to claim his third DPWTC crown since 2017. Both Englishman Fitzpatrick and Northern Ireland’s McIlroy are also pursuing a hat-trick at JGE, with a record $10 million prize money on the line in the final Rolex Series campaign of the year.
Speaking of McIllroy, he certainly was not going to just sit idly by and let others take the limelight.
There is a reason he is the FedEX Cup champ. There is a reason he is the world No. 1, and there is a reason he is looking to become only the second player in history to be the top player on both sides of the Atlantic after Henrik Stenson.
McIlroy matched Rahm’s low round of the day with seven birdies, two bogeys and a brilliant eagle on the second hole, to move up to fourth alongside Hatton (72), three back from Rahm, two from Fitzpatrick and one behind surprise package Alex Noren of Sweden in third spot.
Irish Open Champ Adrian Meronk and NedBank Golf Challenge king Tommy Fleetwood are T6 on 10-under.
“I don’t think I could have shot any lower today,” said Rahm. “I maximised the round. It wasn’t my best off the tee but I was able to actually get some birdies out of some not so good situations. I didn’t hit any of the fairways on the par 5s and still played them 3-under par.
“I’m hoping come tomorrow I can be a little better off the tee, and still keep the good iron play and good putting going.”
After finishing birdie, birdie, eagle on Friday, McIlroy took his form to the weekend.
“I thought that last three holes yesterday could really kick-start a little bit of momentum for me, and I’ve brought that into today,” he said. “I’ve played so well on this golf course over the years that I know how to shoot low scores here and I know how to make birdies. It was just a matter of getting it out of myself. And over the last 21 holes, it’s been a lot better.
“I just need to continue to put the ball in play off the tee and in the fairway and give myself plenty of chances from there.”
Fitzpatrick essentially needs to win on Sunday and hope McIlroy falters to finish lower than seventh if he is to overhaul the Northern Irishman.
“It would mean the world to win the Race,” he said. “I’m going to need a lot of things go my way. I feel like this could be a third win here, and if it happens, it could be all three times I’ve not won The Race to Dubai.
“So yeah, maybe I guess I just left it a little bit too late to play well but I’ve given myself a chance tomorrow, and that’s all you can do at the start of the week. I’ll do the best I can and fingers crossed.”
You may also like:
Get your FREE November issue of Golf Digest Middle East here
How Bryson dropped 20 pounds with new diet
Look DPWTC Day 3 tee times
Fitzpatrick holds upperhand as Rory roars
PGA Tour to lose long-time and loyal sponsor
How South Australia landed the LIV gig
Who needs to do what to win DP World Tour Rankings race?
Rahm slates ‘laughable’ OWGR, open to LIV Golf players earning ranking points
Ryan aims to outfox Rory at DPWTC
Take a look at this graphic on Tiger Woods’ dominance
Shane Lowry aims to reel them in at DP World Tour Championship
Al Zorah awarded GEO Certification
Rory says Greg has to go
Fleetwood flies into Dubai on a high
College golfers can now get PGA Tour cards before turning pro
Cam Smith makes a major call on LIV Golfers
LOOK: The final line-up for the DP World Tour Championship
LIV Golf confirms 2023 date in Australia
Fleetwood goes back-to-back in Sun City
Ogletree wins from Bernd in Egypt
Chiara Noja stages sensational victory at Aramco Team Series in Jeddah