Matt Fitzpatrick delivered a masterclass in the opening round of the DP World Tour Championship, and put himself in pole position to lift the Harry Vardon Trophy.
Rory McIlroy came into the final event of the season at the top of the DP World Tour Rankings, but he endured a tough day on the Earth Course.
With McIlroy struggling, the door was ajar for someone to take charge - and Fitzpatrick made the big move.
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The US Open champion got off to a blistering start with birdies on his first five holes.
On a course that he loves, Fitzpatrick continued to fashion chances as he took on flags, confident in his iron play.
The putter went a little cold on the back nine, but a bogey-free round of 65 took him to the top of the leaderboard - a position he must be in on Sunday if he is to stand any chance of winning the Harry Vardon Trophy for the DP World Tour’s top golfer of 2022.
“The biggest thing I am pleased about today is hitting 17 greens, and the one I missed I was a complete idiot,” Fitzpatrick said. “That was the big thing, I kept giving myself chances.
“The way it (the course) is playing, it is one shot at a time. You have to be on it because of how difficult it is with the rough. If you are missing fairways you are not going to give yourself any chances.”

First Round Leaderboard

  • T1. Matt Fitzpatrick, seven-under
  • T1. Tyrrell Hatton, seven-under
  • 3. Alex Noren, six-under
  • 4. Adri Arnaus, five-under
  • T5. Kurt Kitayama, four-under
  • T5. Callum Shinkwin, four-under
  • T5. Yannik Paul, four-under
  • T5. Rasmus Hojgaard, four-under
  • T5. Tommy Fleetwood, four-under
Tyrrell Hatton is out of the running for the Harry Vardon Trophy, but he is firmly in the mix to win the DP World Tour Championship after carding the same 65 as Fitzpatrick.
It could have been better as he got to eight-under at one stage, but made bogey on 18 after finding trouble off the tee.
McIlroy had a mixed day, as he fought with his swing for much of the round.
Too often he leaked balls to the left, and his much-improved wedge play was a little off colour.
It cost him bogeys on five, nine, 12 and 16. But he saved his best drive of the day for the final hole, and it led to a birdie and a round of 71.
“My driving was a little bit crooked,” McIlroy said. “I made that bogey on 12, didn’t birdie 14 or 15 and then the unforced error with the three-putt on 16.
“It was nice to birdie the last to shoot under-par.
“I have had three weeks off since the CJ Cup so trying to knock the rust off a little bit.
“There was enough good stuff in there, I made five birdies. I just need to be a bit tidier tomorrow.
“There’s a bigger premium on accuracy this year and I found that out today.”
Asked where his game is at, McIlroy said: “It is not far away. There’s nothing I need to drastically work on. Go out and shoot a low one tomorrow and be right in it for the weekend.”
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