DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Patrick Reed and Danny Willett each put on a green jacket the last time they won a tournament. Now they have their eyes set on another significant prize.
Reed, the reigning Masters champion, and Willett, who won that event two years earlier, closed Saturday at 14-under 202 and will enter the final day of the European Tour’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship as co-leaders.
Willett, one stroke off the lead after the second round, shot a 4-under 68, and Reed carded a 5-under 67 to move one stroke ahead of Jordan Smith.
Lee Westwood, who won the Nedbank Challenge last week, shot a 65 and moved into a tie for fourth place with Dean Burmester.
Reed, who had just one three-putt bogey — on the long par-3 fourth hole — made four birdies when the wind started picking up on the 7,675-yard Earth course at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
“I feel good,” said Reed, who entered the week ranked 17th in the world. “I feel like the consistency of my game is where it needs to be. You’re always going to have hot flashes here and there and you’re always going to have kind of low points.
“I feel like my low points are getting better, and they are more manageable and I can miss the golf ball where I need to miss it. When you can do that, you’re able to eliminate a lot of the big mistakes and keep the bogeys off the card and I think that’s key.”
Reed, who said winning would be “a little early Christmas gift,” will have to get past a resurgent Willett, was ranked No. 462 in May but entered the event 276th.
Willett was 1 under through 13 holes before making three consecutive birdies for a 68.
“It would be nice to win, but there’s a lot of golf left,” Willett said. “A lot can happen in 18 holes.
“I’m just happy with the golf game. The body is feeling good, and … it’s been a long old year with all the stuff that’s gone on — and for this to be the last event this year with a field this good is a real bonus. I am going to go out and try to play some good golf (on Sunday).”
Although the tournament remains poised for an exciting finish, the fate of the Race to Dubai was almost sealed on the penultimate day of the season when Tommy Fleetwood, needing to win to retain the title over Francesco Molinari, slumped to a 74 and fell eight shots behind the leaders.
Molinari shot a 70 to move to 5 under, tied for 27th place and just one shot behind Fleetwood.
“I feel the adrenaline might have gone now,” Fleetwood said, seemingly conceding the race. “I think you kind of know when your time’s up. I lasted within two days of the season. It was going to be a stretch trying to win it, but it is what it is. I’ll play (Sunday) and we’ll see how we do, but it’s fine.”
Three-time European No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is attempting to win the tournament a third time — carded a 71 to fall into a tie for 13th with a 207.