Rolex Series

Matt Fitzpatrick's bid for double Dubai delight firmly on track

Matt Fitzpatrick remains in pole position to claim the Harry Vardon Trophy after his second-round 67 kept him locked alongside fellow Englishman Tyrrell Hatton at the top of the 2022 DP World Tour Championship leaderboard.

Hatton Fitzpatrick

There was a match-play feel to the action in the final group on Friday as a fast start saw Hatton open up a three-shot lead before fellow first-round co-leader Fitzpatrick reined him in.

Yorkshireman Fitzpatrick briefly claimed the outright lead in the closing stages courtesy of a late birdie blitz but Hatton took advantage of the short 17th to regain a share of first place.

There was late drama at the 18th as a pair of disappointing tee-shots left the co-leaders with decisions to make.

Hatton opted to take a drop after finding his ball plugged in the penalty area and produced an excellent recovery shot to give himself an outside birdie chance, but ultimately had to settle for par and a round of 67.

Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, played his second shot from among the trees and walked away with no damage done to sit alongside Hatton on 12 under par.

Fitzpatrick, who went into this week's season finale third on the DP World Tour Rankings in Partnership with Rolex, leads the projected standings ahead of Rory McIlroy and Ryan Fox with 36 holes remaining.

Swede Alex Noren and Spaniard Adri Arnaus head into the weekend in a tie for third, three shots behind the co-leaders on nine under.

Jon Rahm, who like Fitzpatrick has a stunning record at Jumeirah Golf Estates' Earth Course, sits alongside fellow Spaniard Jorge Campillo one shot further back in a share of fifth.

Hatton made a lightning-quick start to his second round, holing from six feet for a birdie at the first before taking advantage of the par-five second and making it three gains in a row courtesy of a beautiful approach shot at the third.

A ten-foot par save on the fourth kept Hatton's card clean before another birdie at the fifth - from 12 feet - saw him climb to 11 under.

The 31-year-old dropped his first shot of the day on the short sixth as he made a three-putt bogey there, while his playing partner Fitzpatrick managed to escape with a par after narrowly avoiding the water at the same hole.

Hatton bounced back with a close-range birdie on the seventh but saw his lead trimmed to a single shot after Fitzpatrick made back-to-back gains on the seventh and eighth.

Hatton produced a spectacular shot from a fairway bunker to set up a seven-foot birdie putt at the ninth but he was unable to convert and remained just one shot clear at the turn.

The six-time DP World Tour winner came agonisingly close to holing his approach at the tenth for an eagle but an unfortunate lip-out meant he had to make do with a close-range birdie instead.

And with Fitzpatrick unable to make his birdie putt, Hatton moved two clear once again.

But there was a big momentum shift over the next few holes as Hatton went bogey-bogey-par from the 11th to fall back to ten under.

And with reigning U.S. Open Champion Fitzpatrick limiting the damage to one dropped shot with a 14-foot bogey putt on the 12th before birdieing the 13th from five feet, he pulled alongside Hatton at the top.

Hatton regained the outright lead with a confident nine-foot birdie putt at the 14th but Fitzpatrick rejoined him at the summit with a gain on the 15th.

The tide turned again as Fitzpatrick took the outright lead on 12 under thanks to a 15-foot putt from the semi-rough at the 16th.

But Hatton responded in style, draining his 21-foot birdie effort on the 17th to rejoin his playing partner at the top of the leaderboard, with Fitzpatrick unable to make his birdie try.

The leaders each recovered from poor tee-shots to save par on the last and keep hold of a share of the lead.

Fitzpatrick was delighted with his second-round performance, saying: "Really, really pleased with the way I played again. And yeah, scored really well too. It was a good day.

"Just got to keep pushing on, just keep playing how I feel like I'm playing right now. I feel really comfortable with where my game is at, particularly after three weeks off, and looking forward to the weekend.

"I feel like I've played two good rounds to start with and put myself in position and I'll just keep doing more of the same and see where it gets me come Sunday."

Hatton said: "I'm pretty happy with the score. I got off to another nice start again today.

"I feel like I've generally played some pretty good golf. We got a little unlucky on the back nine, which I feel like it stalled our momentum a little bit.

"Really happy to par the last today. That's probably one of the best 3-woods I've hit in my life, to be fair, and I didn't realise it was as close as it was. It was a tough crowd on 18! Nice way to finish the day.

"Hopefully the putter stays fairly hot and we have a good weekend.

"There's still 36 holes to play. I have a fairly good record around here. Matt has an excellent record around here. But you know, we'll enjoy each other's company tomorrow and hopefully we can keep playing well."

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