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November 22, 2019

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Lorenzo-Vera seizes Dubai lead

France’s Mike Lorenzo-Vera overcame a lung infection to shoot the lowest-ever round at the DP World Tour Championship yesterday, while Bernd Wiesberger stayed in pole position for the season-ending Race to Dubai title.

Lorenzo-Vera holed four straight birdies to finish the back nine at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, carding a 9-under-par 63 in the opening round as he matched his lowest ever score to par on the European Tour.

The 34-year-old made a flying start with an eagle on the par-5 second and a birdie on the third and while he dropped a shot on the next, another gain on the seventh gave him a share of the lead before taking full control.

Having struggled with illness during a final-round 80 at last week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa, Lorenzo-Vera was pleased to claim an early one-shot advantage at the European Tour’s season-finale.

“Honestly I’m not feeling well at all,” he said. “I have no energy. I had a big lung infection in South Africa and a big treatment and really feel bad on top of that.

“I felt that if I really relaxed a lot, just swing it like 70 percent or maybe less, the ball was still flying pretty well. Try to be pretty clever and not too aggressive and then the putter got hot. So that worked.”

World No. 2 Rory McIlroy had five birdies and three lip outs on the front nine and finished with an eagle at the par-5 18th on his way to an impressive 64.

Race to Dubai leader Wiesberger, who needs a win or a solo second in Dubai to guarantee that he wins the Harry Vardon Trophy, finished the day at 2-under, a shot clear of fellow contender Matthew Fitzpatrick and three ahead of British Open champion Shane Lowry.

Spain’s Jon Rahm, who is also among the five players who can be crowned the European Tour’s Order of Merit winner this weekend, piled the pressure on Wiesberger with a bogey-free 66.

England’s Tommy Fleetwood, who moved up to second in the Race to Dubai Rankings with victory at the Nedbank Golf Challenge, continued his brilliant run with a 67 to sit alongside compatriot Tom Lewis four shots off the lead.

Fleetwood knows a win coupled with Wiesberger finishing lower than outright second will see him capture the title for the second time in three years. The same scenario faces third-place Rahm, who won the World Tour Championship in 2017 and placed fourth last year.

Meanwhile, Brooks Koepka announced he is withdrawing from the Presidents Cup with a knee injury, with US captain Tiger Woods promptly selecting Rickie Fowler for the vacant spot.

“Today, I am announcing my withdrawal from the US Presidents Cup Team because of my knee injury,” Koepka said in a statement that was posted on the US PGA Tour website on Wednesday.

“I notified Captain Tiger Woods that despite constant medical care and rehab, I am not able to play golf at this time. I consider it to be a high honor to be part of the 2019 team and I regret not being able to compete,” he added.

World No. 1 Koepka, who had stem cell treatment on his left knee after the Tour Championship, pulled out of the CJ Cup in South Korea after aggravating the injury when he slipped on a cart path.

He said he had been in constant contact with Woods since then, but now realized he needed “more time to heal”,

Woods wasted no time in selecting Fowler to a third Presidents Cup team. Fowler was undefeated — winning three matches and halving one — in the United States’ win over the International team in the 2017 edition of the match play showdown at Liberty National in New Jersey.

“I spoke to Rickie and he has agreed to join the US Team,” Woods said in comments posted on the tour website. “Rickie has played on a couple Presidents Cup teams, was someone seriously considered for a pick and is well respected and liked by his teammates.”

The US will take on the International team captained by Ernie Els at Royal Melbourne from December 12-15.


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