DUBAI, Nov 16 ― A decade after first winning the European Tour Order of Merit crown, Justin Rose is hoping for similar success this week at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
Rose won the 2007 season finale, then held at Valderrama in Spain, to become the European number one, and needs to bring his sizzling recent form to the US$8 million (RM33.41 million) tournament if he wants to win the Race to Dubai, which replaced Order of Merit in 2009.
The 37-year-old world number six has won his last two tournaments ― the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai and the Turkish Airlines Open in Antalya.
Rose heads towards the season’s climax in an almost match play-like situation with fellow Englishman and Race to Dubai leader Tommy Fleetwood, who he trails by 256,737 points.
If Fleetwood doesn’t win in Dubai, a solo second place will secure Rose top spot. If Rose finishes outside the top five, Fleetwood will hold his place at the top of the rankings regardless of his performance at the Jumeirah Golf Estates.
“It’s actually a very similar situation (to 2007). I think at Valderrama I could have finished second or third, but went ahead and won the tournament,” said the former US Open champion and the 2016 Olympic gold medallist.
“But end of the day, to win the Race to Dubai, I have to contend in this tournament one way or another,” he added.
Rose opted not to play the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa last week, but is hoping the week off will help him in his charge for a third successive win and a second Order of Merit title.
“I need to finish towards the top end of the leaderboard, and if you’re going to finish at the top end you may as well focus on trying to win the tournament.
“It’s just about putting myself in position, and then getting it done when you have that chance.”
Rose said he had used his week off to spend time with his family and had arrived in Dubai “fresh, ready to go and excited”.
“Those are the main ingredients, really, for playing well. You can never guarantee a good week, but the recipe is in place to continue doing what I’ve done the last few weeks.”
No fear for Fleetwood
Fleetwood, who won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at the start of the season and the Open de France in July, said he was not intimidated by Rose’s stature in the game, nor his current form.
“Justin has done a lot of things in his career that I would like to do,” said world number 19 Fleetwood. “To win back-to-back, and those events, is brilliant.
“It’s not intimidating or stressful in any way. I’m not sure whether nervous is the right word, but it’s the good kind of nerves.
“You know, I’m turning up tomorrow, final event of the year and I’m playing with Justin Rose trying to win a Race to Dubai.”
Rose said he also expected a strong challenge from Sergio Garcia, who lies third in the rankings.
“Sergio could win it, as well. Sergio, Rose and then me… that’s pretty cool.”
The tournament is missing Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson, who between them have won the title four times in the past five years.
McIlroy ended his injury-ravaged season early, while Stenson pulled out of the last two events with a rib problem sustained in Shanghai on the eve of the WGC-HSBC Champions.
The duo has also won every Order of Merit crown since 2012, with Stenson winning it last year and in 2013.
England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick is the tournament’s defending champion. ― AFP