(Reuters) – Francesco Molinari remained on track to become the first Italian to win the European Tour’s season-long Race to Dubai after carding a 70 to sit at five-under par heading into the final round of the DP World Tour Championship on Saturday.
Molinari’s closest rival England’s Tommy Fleetwood, who must win this weekend to have any chance of retaining the Harry Vardon Trophy, failed to make a single birdie in a frustrating third-round 74, slipping eight shots off the pace.
Patrick Reed and Danny Willett shared the lead after a dramatic late birdie spree at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai.
U.S. Masters champion Reed fired four birdies in six holes on the back nine to finish with five-under-67 and set a clubhouse target of 14-under, while England’s Willett posted three birdies in a row to join him with a 68.
Reed is looking for his first victory since his triumph at Augusta National in April and remains keen to land an early Christmas present.
“I feel good,” the 28-year-old American said. “I feel like the consistency of my game is where it needs to be.
“To have a chance to go out and finish the year off right and win a golf tournament, give myself a little early Christmas gift, a trophy, would be amazing.”
England’s Jordan Smith also finished with a flourish, three birdies from the 14th leaving him one shot off the lead at 13-under.
Lee Westwood, who won his first European Tour title in four years at the Nedbank Golf Challenge last week, continued his brilliant run with seven birdies in the first 14 holes.
The Englishman finished at 12-under for a share of fourth spot alongside compatriot Matt Wallace and South African Dean Burmester.
Overnight leader Wallace, chasing a fourth European Tour title victory of the season, started with three birdies but a double bogey at the eighth restricted him to a 71.
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; editing by Ken Ferris)