Shane Lowry fears six shots might be too much to make up but Paul Dunne knows a fast start could set up a final round charge for his second win of the season in the DP World Tour Championship and catapult him into the world's top 50.
As Lowry shot a 68 that could have been a few shots better, Dunne birdied three of his last four holes to squeeze the most out of his day, signing for a bogey-free, five-under 67 that leaves him just three strokes behind leader Justin Rose with one round to go.
With the top 15 on the leaderboard covered by just five strokes, the stage is set for a thrilling end to the season with Tommy Fleetwood and Rose — first and second in the Race to Dubai — carding matching seven-under 65s.
Rose has won his last two events in China and Turkey to close to within 256,737 points of Fleetwood, who is tied for fourth alongside South Africa’s Dean Burmester and Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat.
But with Spanish sensation Jon Rahm and South Africa’s Dylan Frittelli just a shot behind Rose on 14 under and Fleetwood only one shot further back, the chances of some back nine fireworks are high, especially if Dunne or Lowry can mount a final round charge.
If Rose or Fleetwood wins, they will win the Race to Dubai. If not, the permutations are as follows:
- Fleetwood needs to equal or better Rose’s finishing position to stay ahead the Olympic Champion
- Rose needs to finish no worse than solo fifth in order to have any chance of winning the season-long title.
- As long as Fleetwood doesn’t win, a solo second-place finish for Rose would be enough to secure the 37-year-old’s second Race to Dubai title, 10 years after his first win at Valderrama.
None of this interests Dunne, who didn't play as well as he did on Friday or putt as well as he did in round one. But he knows that if he can put both elements of his game together on Sunday, victory can be his.
"The scoring was pretty insane, I thought, but I was happy with five under," Dunne told Meridian Media's Denis Kirwan.
"It was nice to pick up three in the last four and get a bit of momentum going into tomorrow.
"It is so bunched.... you know you are going to have to shoot a good score tomorrow. There's no tippy-toeing around. It is just one of those things, try to get off to a fast start and then just keep building on it and see how many under you can shoot and hopefully have a chance coming down the last couple."
Dunne failed to make a fast start in round three and hopes to be two under through five holes in Sunday so he can then take on the birdie chances at the seventh and eighth with less pressure on his shoulders.
"Hopefully I can get off to a quick start and build on it," he said.
Lowry got off to a quick start in round three by following birdies at the first and second with three more at the ninth, 12th and 14th.
After moving up to solo second at one stage on 10-under par, he was disappointed to play his last four holes in one over par, conceding a soft bogey four to "an easy" pin at the 17th before being forced to make a 15 footer for par at the last.
"I left plenty out there today," Lowry told Meridian Media after following a soft bogey to "an easy pin" on 17 with a disappointing par at the last.
"Hopefully the leaders won't get too far ahead but I suspect they will get to 15 (under) and that might be a bit too far. I will just go out and shoot the best score I can and see what happens."
“It's a great opportunity, isn't it? I'm certainly not thinking about being the leader because I think it such a condensed pack and someone tomorrow is going to have to play great golf to win. Someone is going to shoot in the mid-60s at some point who is within touch. It's going to be a day where you're out there not paying too much attention to the leaderboard early in the round. You just have to put your blinkers on and play good golf.
“I saw Tommy's name creep up on the board. It's brilliant. It's just so much fun and a ton of guys will fancy it tomorrow. It's really condensed. One-shot lead with a pack like that behind you doesn't mean much. It's just going to be whoever comes out tomorrow and really plays well.”
“It doesn’t seem to matter what I'm doing at the moment. When you look at the leaderboard, we know who's there! It's massive. It really is. But whether I win it or not, or whether Justin wins it, one of us will have deserved it. It's been an absolute pleasure trying to win a Race to Dubai, coming down these last few events, and especially this week now. The week could have gone not quite as how you wanted it, not being in contention or anything.
“It's a massive day tomorrow. It's the biggest thing I've ever tried to achieve. I was in contention in the U.S. Open and Mexico at the WGC but they were like one or two rounds. This has been all year and you come down to the final event.
“A year and a half ago, I was absolutely nowhere in the game and I was a bit lost. Fast forward to where I am, for me, it's been amazing to play and to enjoy my golf this year; and then to get to this stage. It's been an absolute pleasure and privilege trying to compete for a Race to Dubai.”
“For many reasons it would be absolutely amazing to win this tournament. It would mean I had become Rookie of the Year and won twice on the European Tour. Once was already a dream but two wins - both of them being Rolex Series and one being the DP World Tour Championship - would be something really, really special. It would be the cherry on top of the icing of a great, great year.”
“I started two-under through three the first two days, so I feel like that good start today was par for the course right now. But definitely proud of the way that I knuckled down through the middle of the round and got some more birdies, as opposed to the first two days.
“I definitely set high goals this year and I've achieved a lot of them. Obviously, it's been a breakout year. It's been the best one I've had as a professional so far. I just hope to keep the form coming and play well tomorrow again.
“I've just got to stay focused and try to stick to the same routine. Maybe I’ll work out this afternoon, hit a few balls and get back, hopefully get some good sleep and just do it again tomorrow. That's always the plan.
“It's a round of golf. You've got to be happy with the situation and this is what we practice for. I loved playing with Sergio today. He’s a good friend, from Austin, Texas, as well, and had a wonderful time with him today.”
DP World Tour Championship, Dubai (Jumeirah Golf Estates, Par 72)
201 J Rose (Eng) 66 70 65,
202 D Frittelli (RSA) 71 68 63, J Rahm (Esp) 69 68 65,
203 D Burmester (RSA) 70 68 65, T Fleetwood (Eng) 73 65 65, K Aphibarnrat (Tha) 69 67 67,
204 J Suri (USA) 68 68 68, P Uihlein (USA) 71 68 65, Paul Dunne (Irl) 67 70 67, T Hatton (Eng) 72 63 69,
205 A Björk (Swe) 67 71 67, P Reed (USA) 65 72 68,
206 M Fitzpatrick (Eng) 67 67 72, S Garcia (Esp) 70 69 67, D Lipsky (USA) 70 72 64,
207 Shane Lowry (Irl) 69 70 68, M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra) 70 72 65, R Fisher (Eng) 71 68 68, M Kaymer (Ger) 68 72 67, C Shinkwin (Eng) 72 69 66, S Kjeldsen (Den) 68 69 70,
208 R Cabrera Bello (Esp) 73 69 66, F Molinari (Ita) 69 71 68, S Hend (Aus) 66 71 71, M Pavon (Fra) 71 70 67, L Haotong (Chn) 72 69 67, R Sterne (RSA) 71 71 66,
209 H Porteous (RSA) 70 70 69, C Schwartzel (RSA) 70 72 67, I Poulter (Eng) 70 69 70,
210 A Otaegui (Esp) 71 69 70, V Dubuisson (Fra) 75 67 68,
211 E Pepperell (Eng) 75 70 66, R Fox (Nzl) 67 71 73, T Olesen (Den) 74 68 69, B Grace (RSA) 72 71 68, J Wang (Kor) 71 70 70,
212 R Ramsay (Sco) 72 72 68, D Horsey (Eng) 68 76 68, F Zanotti (Par) 67 75 70,
213 P Larrazábal (Esp) 69 70 74, J Smith (Eng) 75 67 71, S Jamieson (Sco) 76 71 66, A Levy (Fra) 67 76 70, A Noren (Swe) 74 69 70, A Sullivan (Eng) 68 76 69,
214 D Drysdale (Sco) 73 72 69, P Waring (Eng) 70 74 70, C Wood (Eng) 70 74 70, J Luiten (Ned) 73 70 71,
216 A Dodt (Aus) 70 77 69, G Storm (Eng) 76 74 66, N Colsaerts (Bel) 68 76 72, L Westwood (Eng) 75 73 68, M Warren (Sco) 72 76 68,
217 L Bjerregaard (Den) 75 74 68, H Tanihara (Jpn) 73 77 67,
218 B Wiesberger (Aut) 71 76 71,
220 T Pieters (Bel) 74 74 72,
221 G Coetzee (RSA) 70 76 75,