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Reed in action during Tuesday’s Pro-Am at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
By Kent Gray
Controversy-courting history-seeker meets perennial Race to Dubai challenger and fan favourite. Mix with a hearty dollop of Ryder Cup history and you have the saucy marquee two-ball for the start of the DP World Tour Championship on Thursday.
As the Race to Dubai pole-sitter and No.2 respectively, the pairing of Patrick Reed and Tommy Fleetwood for the opening round of the European Tour season-decider at Jumeirah Golf Estates was entirely predictable. But it doesn’t make their 12.45pm tee time on Earth any less intriguing.
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Fleetwood has the best shot of denying Reed a place in history as the first American winner of the Harry Vardon trophy, awarded to the European Tour order of merit champion. It’s history now too but bet on Fleetwood’s 2018 Ryder Cup heroics at Le Golf National being brought up in the global telecast too; the Englishman and his Italian pal Francesco Molinari twice beat Reed and Tiger Woods in fourball matches as Fleetwood went unbeaten in Europe’s 17½ -10½ over Team USA.
Fleetwood also knows how to close out the Race to Dubai, having won the Harry Vardon Trophy in 2017, a year before Reed finished runner-up to Danny Willett at the DPWTC and second overall to Molinari in the order of merit race.
As it stands, four players are guaranteed to claim the Race to Dubai crown with victory at the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai: Patrick Reed, Tommy Fleetwood, Collin Morikawa and Lee Westwood. For four others – Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Victor Perez, Aaron Rai and Tyrrell Hatton – victory is guaranteed provided Reed doesn’t finish second alone.
Out 10 minutes earlier at 12.35pm is two-time European No.1 Lee Westwood and reigning U.S. PGA champion Collin Morikawa. The duo could sneak the Race to Dubai title by winning the DPWTC.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout, up to fifth in the rankings courtesy of back-to-back European Tour titles in his native South Africa starts the first round in the company of Frenchman Victor Perez at 12.25pm.
Norwegian Viktor Hovland, fresh from his victory in the PGA Tour’s final event of 2020, the Mayakoba Golf Classic, tees off with 2016 DPWTC winner Matthew Fitzpatrick at 11.45am.
Back to that tenuous 2018 Ryder Cup link, world No.10 Tyrrell Hatton begins his challenge alongside fellow Englishman Aaron Rai at 12.15pm. For those with good memories, Reed beat Hatton 3&2 in the Sunday singles near Paris to avoid a totally miserable Ryder Cup campaign.
The full list of tee times can be found here.