Tommy Fleetwood would happily be responsible for a “boring” end to the season as he looks to hold off the inspired challenge of Justin Rose and win the Race to Dubai.
Fleetwood looked home and dry a few weeks ago with nearest rivals Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm not going out of their way to catch him, but fellow Englishman Rose had other ideas.
The Olympic champion was a distant 10th on the money list before banking more than 2.4 million points with back-to-back victories in the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open to slash Fleetwood’s lead to just 134,839.
The good news for Fleetwood is that Rose, after some thought on Sunday evening, has stuck with his planned schedule and will not contest this week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge, meaning Fleetwood is guaranteed to increase his lead in a 72-man event which has no halfway cut.
And a third victory of the season in Sun City would give Fleetwood an unassailable lead in the battle to end the year as European number one, even if Rose triumphs in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
“Hats off to Rosey for the way he’s played the last couple of weeks,” Fleetwood said.
“It’s made it an interesting finish but I could make it a lot more boring this week if I have a good week.
“It’s still kind of in my hands. I’ve got to keep concentrating on what I’m doing and I played nice last week. I went the last two rounds without a bogey but I didn’t convert many of my birdie chances.
“I’d like to win the tournament and it’s at that stage where every shot counts. I’d like to start tournaments off a little bit quicker. The last couple I have played okay on Thursdays and not scored very well and then you’re behind the eight ball.
“I’d like to get off to a good start but if you don’t, keep going and keep your head down. Aside from everything else that is going on, it’s one of those tournaments that you’d love to win - I’d love to have my name on that path walking up the ninth hole (at the Gary Player Country Club).”
Fleetwood finished 14th in Sun City last year, improving in every round after an opening 75, and believes the course should suit his game.
“It’s tough,” the 26-year-old from Southport added. “You’re not going to get away with shots off line this week. You really have to think about where you’re putting the ball, even into the greens.
“I think with the wind swirling there’s a lot of patience involved, a lot of knowing where you can hit and where you can’t. It should in general suit me, but you’ve still got to play well, you’ve got to hit good golf shots, but I love the course.”
Meanwhile American Pat Perez admits he is struggling to comprehend what he has achieved in the last year as he prepares to defend his OHL Classic at Mayakoba title.
Perez was ranked 271st in the world and playing on a medical exemption following shoulder surgery when he won his second PGA Tour event at El Camaleon in Mexico 12 months ago.
And the 41-year-old has gone from strength to strength ever since, recording four further top-10 finishes last season and then starting the current campaign with victory in the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur.
“It’s unbelievable,” Perez told a pre-tournament press conference. “I can’t believe what’s transpired in 12 months.
“I was just hoping to not get hurt again and hopefully get my (PGA Tour) card back and that kind of stuff and here I am, I won twice and now I got to 18 in the world. I just can’t believe it.
“My goal is to get to the Tour Championship again,” Perez added. “I would love to be a contender in some big tournaments.
“The Ryder Cup is a long way away (and) I’m still behind the eight ball there, but it would be nice to be in the running for stuff like that.”
Perez will partner 2015 champion Graeme McDowell and 2014 winner Charley Hoffman in the first two rounds, with tournament favourite Rickie Fowler making his first start of the season alongside Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo and the in-form Chesson Hadley.
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