Paul Dunne and Shane Lowry are on a collision course with Justin Rose as the pressure mounts on Race to Dubai leader Tommy Fleetwood in the $8 million DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
Olympic champion Rose wants to win his third event in a row and deny the Fleetwood the money title at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
And while he got off to the perfect start with sublime 66 to Fleetwood's nervy 73 to share second spot behind US star Patrick Reed, Dunne and Lowry and also gunning for a win that could secure a top 50 in the world spot by year's end and early invitations to the Masters.
Reed shot a seven-under 65 to lead from Rose and Scott Hend, but Dunne shot an immaculate 67 to lie just two shots adrift in a six-man tie for fourth with Lowry two shots further back after a solid 69.
The Greystones star (24) is 77th in the world but he knows that not only would a win catapult him in the world’s top 50 and secure his Masters Tournament invitation, he’d also be a certainty to play for Thomas Bjorn in the EurAsia Cup in Kuala Lumpur in January and show his Ryder Cup credentials.
The top 10 available players from the final Race to Dubai standings will tee it up in Malaysia, and a win would be more than enough for 15th ranked Dunne.
"Everyone is playing for something different this week," Dunne told Meridian Media's Denis Kirwan after his round.
"For me, I'd like to get in the Eurasia Cup team. I don't know who ahead of me is going to play or not play. I just know I need a decent week to make that team, so that's my motivation this week.
"I know if I win it will be sorted and I just want to give myself a chance and hopefully play well when it matters."
Set to end a stellar year at next week's Hong Kong Open, Dunne effectively has two chances to make the jump into the world's top 50.
A trip down Magnolia Lane is already on his travel schedule but only for a friendly game with his American coach Eric Eshelman and an Augusta National member.
"I am actually going to play there in a couple of months," Dunne revealed. "My coach is bringing me because one of the members of his course is a member at Augusta.
"It would be nice if that was an official practice round but we will wait and see. There is a lot of golf to be played before that."
Dunne enjoyed his debut at Jumeirah Golf Estates and feels good about his chances after a flawless start.
"I had four days last weeks of getting the jitters on every tee box with a bush everywhere," he said. "This week suits my eye a little bit more.
"My pace putting was really good today when I didn't hit it close with my irons shots and my touch around the greens was good. I never looked like making a bogey anywhere.
"Everything felt pretty tidy and hopefully I can continue like that the next few days. Three more five-unders would be really nice."
Lowry was also pleased to shoot 69 in cooler early morning conditions and after five top-12s from his last eight starts, his biggest enemy now is fatigue not form.
He told Meridian Media: "This is my eighth tournament in nine weeks, so it is going to get difficult at times this week.
"I am going to have to keep grinding and keep doing what I am doing and see what happens.
"I am happy with today. I made a bad bogey on 12 but other than that I was fairly solid."
As for the Race to Dubai contest, Fleetwood was clearly feeling the pressure, opening with a double bogey alongside Rose in the final group.
Three over after three, he got back to level par after an eagle at the seventh but made three bogeys in a one-over-par back nine
"I don't know how much longer Justin is going to keep playing flawless golf but I wish he'd stop because he's doing my head in," Fleetwood said, admitting that nerves led to him “gifting shots away early on.”
Rose, who needs at least a top-four finish to overhaul Fleetwood and hope that Sergio Garcia does not win, was not getting head of himself.
“My job this week is to try to take as many scenarios as out, and just to try to win the tournament. Let's just tee up tomorrow and keep going.”