It is so far so good for Danny Willett after the first round of the final event of the Race To Dubai – but he admits he could have done better.
The Sheffield golfer was tied alongside Sweden’s Alex Noren as the highest placed Race To Dubai contenders after the first 18 holes at the DP World Tour Championship.
But Willett still has plenty to do if he is to wrestle top spot in the order of merit from Henrik Stenson, who sat a shot back heading into the second round.
Willett can only guarantee the Race To Dubai crown by winning this weekend’s tournament while a top four finish is essential if he is to have any hope of claiming the title.
Currently he sits in a tie for 24th on -1, five shots behind Worksop’s Lee Westwood who led overnight.
While pleased to maintain the good momentum which began with the final two rounds of the Nedbank Golf Challenge last weekend, the 29-year-old believes he could have been much better placed.
“We played really good but missed a lot of good chances,” Willett said. “It was a very frustrating last five or six holes.
“We could have pushed ourselves up there and shot something in the 60s.
“But there were some good signs, some positive signs. We hit the ball well and rolled it good.
“There were just a couple of little misreads on the last few.
“Late in the day, the do get a little bit funky with the grain but 71 is not too bad of a score.
“The iron shots were straight down the flag, we drove the ball well and the short game wasn’t far off.
“It was just a couple of missed chances on the last five or six to just put a little bit of a bad taste on the round.”
Willett went into the turn on two under par after three birdies and a bogey on the opening nine. A bogey five on ten was cancelled out by a birdie three on the 11th but he failed to make further inroads and a bogey on the 17th dropped him back to one under.
Overall, he was content with his performance.
He said: “The first day, it’s always nice to get off to a flier but if you keep nosing on and shooting better each day to move up the leaderboard, come Sunday, you’re never too far off.”
Noren – currently third in the Race To Dubai rankings – joined Willett on -1 after a steady round which brought only two birdies. The two have been paired on day two with a 6.15am tee time.
Race To Dubai leader Stenson managed just a single birdie as he carded a level par 72.
The outsider of the four man chase Rory McIlroy now has a mountain to climb, after finishing his first round three over par.
McIlroy must win the DP World Tour Championship to have any chance of retaining the Race To Dubai title but even that may not be enough.
Sheffield’s Matt Fitzpatrick produced a superb opening round to put himself in contention for winning the DP World Tour Championship.
Fitzpatrick carded a three under par round of 69 to sit tied for seventh. The 22-year-old had a solitary blemish on his card after bogeying the 11th.
He is out at 8am alongside former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen.
Westwood carded seven birdies and just one bogey as he raced to six under par, giving him a one shot lead over Nicolas Colsaerts and Julien Quesne.