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Tyrell Hatton and Matt Fitzpatrick are setting the pace after the first two rounds in Dubai

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Tyrell Hatton and Matt Fitzpatrick are setting the pace after the first two rounds in Dubai

Tyrrell Hatton and Matt Fitzpatrick are setting the pace after the first two rounds of the European circuit’s Tour Championship in Dubai – but World No 1 Rory McIlroy is gaining ground after a stunning final three holes

  • Tyrrell Hatton and Matt Fitzpatrick are leading the Tour Championship in Dubai
  • The Englishmen led the strong field at 12 under par after matching loops of 67
  • World No 1 Rory McIlroy is seven shots back after a stunning final three holes

If he keeps up like this, Tyrrell Hatton can find some peace of mind.

For all his introspection and anxiety, one of golf’s more passionate souls is setting the pace together after two rounds of the European circuit’s Tour Championship in Dubai.

It’s a position he shares at 12 under par with Matt Fitzpatrick, meaning two Englishmen lead this strong field after matching rounds of 67, although there may be a glance over the shoulder at Rory McIlroy, who is seven shot from speed but fast. shedding the rust of his first round.

The world No 1, who continues at one under, was heading for another modest score, only to survive the last three holes on the Earth Course, with two birdies followed by a stunning four iron from 225 yards on the 18th to set up a tap-in eagle.

Hatton is on 12 under par with Fitzpatrick (pictured), meaning two Englishmen lead the field

Hatton is on 12 under par with Fitzpatrick (pictured), meaning two Englishmen lead the field

While missing out on his Ryder Cup teammates may be too much for his primary goal of winning the tournament, it sharpens his prospects for his second goal of the Harry Vardon Trophy, awarded to the player who leads the season-long DP World Tour. rank.

He has held the spot since July, but if Fitzpatrick wins it for a third time, McIlroy will need to finish in the top two to hold him off.

‘Fitz was obviously giving me a hard time,’ said McIlroy, who reported no awkwardness in his pairing with occasional LIV player Adrian Otaegui.

World No 1 Rory McIlroy (pictured) lived up to the last three holes on the Earth Course

World No 1 Rory McIlroy (pictured) lived up to the last three holes on the Earth Course

‘As long as Fitz continues to play well, I have to play better.

‘It’s a good challenge coming into the last 36 holes, and at least I feel like I still have something to play for here. It’s nice to end with a flourish.

Hatton declared himself ‘freaking out’ after finishing his opening 65 with a bogey on 18, but was more pleased with a 67 on the second, which included a penalty drop on his way to salvaging par in the last.

It was on that hole in the final round in 2016 that a bogey saw him pipped to the title by Fitzpatrick and they were back in contention.

Hatton declared himself ‘furious’ after finishing his opening 65 with a bogey on 18

‘I’m more level-headed than yesterday,’ Hatton said. ‘That 18th hole has been pretty rough on me over the years so it owes me a few shots. Maybe this weekend they will give it to me.’

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After an impressive round with a single bogey, which is no small feat on a course with such dense rough, Fitzpatrick announced that he tested a new virtual reality tool that provides a read on the greens.

‘This is basically cheating and clearly not legal for tournaments,’ he said. ‘Hopefully this will help me develop my green reading as a skill.’