Danny Willett and Patrick Reed share lead at DP World Tour Championship
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 18/11/18 10:29am
Danny Willett and Patrick Reed are tied for the lead heading into the final round of the DP World Tour Championship as Francesco Molinari moved a step closer to securing the Race to Dubai title.
Reigning Masters champion Reed fired a 67 to hit the front on 14 under before 2016 Augusta National winner Willett joined him at the top of the leaderboard with three straight birdies on the back nine, although the Englishman missed out on the outright lead when he failed to convert from six feet for birdie at the last.
But the Race to Dubai battle between Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood now looks a formality after last season's European No 1 was unable to make a single birdie in a frustrating third-round 74 which left him eight shots behind the leaders, and just one in front of his Ryder Cup partner.
Reed is without a victory since being presented with the coveted Green Jacket at Augusta in April, but the American enhanced his claims for a first win on the regular European Tour with an excellent back-nine performance at the Jumeirah Golf Estates.
The 28-year-old struggled to make much happen in a quiet, outward 35, but he revived his chances with his third birdie of the week at the 11th before he picked up three shots in four holes from the 13th to vault two clear of the field at the time.
He then closed with a pair of pars to take the clubhouse lead away from the in-form Lee Westwood, but soon had company at the top of the leaderboard when Willett hit back from his only bogey of the day at the 12th with three birdies in a row from the 14th.
Willett looked poised to snatch the lead away from Reed when he pitched to six feet from the left rough at the long 18th, but his birdie putt drifted wide of the cup as he settled for a 68, which left him with high hopes of claiming a first win since his thrilling Masters triumph.
Jordan Smith birdied three of the last five holes to salvage a 69 as he ended the round in outright third and just one adrift of the two leaders, while an inspired Westwood charged into contention with the joint-lowest score of the day - a bogey-free 65.
Fresh from his first European Tour win since 2014 at last week's Nedbank Golf Challenge, the veteran got off to a flying start with four birdies over the first five holes, and he was frustrated to miss three further opportunities from inside 10 feet as he turned in 32.
But he got back on track with three birdies in four holes from the 11th and parred safely in to remain on 12 under par alongside Dean Burmester and overnight-leader Matt Wallace, who birdied the opening three holes before seeing his challenge hit the buffers with a double-bogey six at the eighth.
Wallace dropped another shot at 13 but got one back at the next as he stuttered to a 71, while Portugal Masters winner Tom Lewis made it five English golfers in the top eight as his six-birdie 67 lifted him to 11 under par.
Sergio Garcia kept a blemish off his card and made five birdies to climb to 10 under alongside compatriot and defending champion Jon Rahm, with their Ryder Cup team-mate Henrik Stenson also four off the lead as the Swede chases a third victory over the Earth Course.
Rory McIlroy was left to reflect on another frustrating performance after slipping five behind with a 71 which included four birdies but also a morale-sapping double-bogey five at the 17th, where he blocked his tee shot into the water hazard.
Fleetwood was just three strokes off the lead at the halfway stage and without a bogey in 36 holes, but his bid for the victory he needs to retain his Race to Dubai crown came undone as he endured "one of those days" on the greens, missing a series of birdie chances while dropping shots at 10 and 17 - where he chunked a chip and then did well to get up-and-down to limit the damage to a bogey.
The 27-year-old looked drained as he signed for a 74, although Molinari also admitted to battling physical and mental fatigue after closing out a 70 with a six at the last, but the Italian now looks certain to end the season as European No 1 unless Fleetwood can conjure up something magical over the final 18 holes on Sunday.