Dubai - England's Matt Wallace continued his remarkable rise toward the top echelon of world golf as he took the lead at the halfway stage of the DP World Tour Championship on Friday.
In the season-ending event of the European Tour, the 28-year-old Wallace shot a seven-under par 65 in the second round to open a three-shot lead on top at 11-under par and was well placed to win his fourth and biggest title of the season.
The resurgent Danny Willett added a second straight 67 to move one shot behind the leader at 10-under par 134. He was later joined there by the two overnight leaders - England's Jordan Smith and Spain's Adrian Otaegui - who both submitted cards of four-under par 68.
In the battle to win the Race to Dubai and become the European No 1 for 2018, front-runner Francesco Molinari slipped with a 73 and a tie for 27th place, while the only man who has the chance to catch the Italian, England's Tommy Fleetwood, consolidated his position with a five-under par 67.
Fleetwood, the defending Race to Dubai champion, was tied for the sixth alongside three-time winner Rory McIlroy on eight-under par 136, three shots behind Wallace. Fleetwood will have to win the tournament on Sunday to stop Molinari taking his Race to Dubai crown.
Wallace won a remarkable six tournaments in nine starts on the Alps Tour in 2016 and graduated to the European Tour a year later by winning Open de Portugal as a Challenge Tour player. In his first full season on the main Tour, he has won the Hero Indian Open, the BMW International Open and the Made in Denmark.
A day after he was fined of £3 000 for slow play, Wallace played a bogey-free round that included a missed birdie putt from less than four feet on the final 18th hole.
Asked what worked well for him, Wallace said: "Everything, really. I started off great. Putting was really nice today. Mentally I was sound."
Willett, the 2016 Masters champion, struggled for most part of last two years and was delighted to be back in the mix.
"It's nice to be back in contention, playing good golf and moving well and actually enjoying the game that you took up many years ago because you loved it," Willett said. "Yeah, really in a nice place," said the Englishman after a round of seven birdies and two bogeys.
Fleetwood is now bogey-free for the two rounds, and said he was looking forward to the challenge of trying to overtake Molinari.
"In terms of the golf tournament, leaderboards mean nothing in day two but you can't help but look at them in the moment when you know what you have to do," Fleetwood said.
"It's a challenge but it's one that I think every other player would kindly accept."
Leading second-round scores on Friday in the $8 million DP World Tour Championship at the par-72 Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates:
133 - Matt Wallace (ENG) 68-65
134 - Danny Willett (ENG) 67-67, Jordan Smith (ENG) 66-68, Adrian Otaegui (ESP) 66-68
135 - Patrick Reed (USA) 69-66
136 - Dean Burmester (RSA) 71-65, Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA) 70-66, Rory McIlroy (NIR) 69-67, Tommy Fleetwood (ENG) 69-67
137 - Alexander Bjork (SWE) 72-66, Henrik Stenson (SWE) 71-66, Jon Rahm (ESP) 67-70
138 - Rafael Cabrera-Bello (ESP) 69-69, Andrea Pavan (ITA) 69-69, Tom Lewis (ENG) 69-69, Thomas Pieters (BEL) 68-70
139 - Andy Sullivan (ENG) 72-67, Sergio Garcia (ESP) 71-68, Lee Westwood (ENG) 70-69
140 - Sam Horsfield (ENG) 73-67, Shubhankar Sharma (IND) 73-67, Matthew Southgate (ENG) 71-69, Thomas Detry (BEL) 70-70, Alexander Noren (SWE) 69-71, Marcus Kinhult (SWE) 69-71, Hideto Tanihara (JPN) 69-71
141 - Russell Knox (SCO) 73-68, Paul Dunne (IRL) 72-69, Wade Ormsby (AUS) 69-72, Li Haotong (CHN) 68-73, Francesco Molinari (ITA) 68-73, Ross Fisher (ENG) 68-73
142 - Lee Slattery (ENG) 72-70, Xander Schauffele (USA) 71-71, Erik Van Rooyen (RSA) 71-71, Chris Paisley (ENG) 71-71, Shane Lowry (IRL) 70-72, Michael Lorenzo-Vera (FRA) 70-72, Joost Luiten (NED) 69-73
143 - Tyrrell Hatton (ENG) 71-72, Dylan Frittelli (RSA) 70-73, Mikko Korhonen (FIN) 69-74
144 - Lucas Herbert (AUS) 74-70, Alexander Levy (FRA) 72-72, Thorbjorn Olesen (DEN) 71-73, Robert Rock (ENG) 71-73
145 - Darren Fichardt (RSA) 74-71
146 - Matthew Fitzpatrick (ENG) 74-72, Wu Ashun (CHN) 72-74, Ian Poulter (ENG) 72-74, Branden Grace (RSA) 71-75
147 - Lucas Bjerregaard (DEN) 76-71, Martin Kaymer (GER) 72-75
148 - Jorge Campillo (ESP) 74-74, Ryan Fox (NZL) 74-74, Aaron Rai (ENG) 73-75
149 - Chris Wood (ENG) 73-76
150 - Brandon Stone (RSA) 74-76
155 - Joakim Lagergren (SWE) 76-79
WD - Eddie Pepperell (ENG)