Rory McIlroy got off to a slow start by his own high standards in the opening round of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai on Thursday, and as a result the World No.1 has lost his lead in the DP World Tour Rankings.
McIlroy had opened his account well when moving serenely to 3-under par after just eight holes, but then the wheels soon came off with three bogeys on his next eight holes to fall back to level par.
To McIlroy's credit, he did make birdie at the par-5 18th to move back into the red.
At 1-under par though, McIlroy not only finds himself six shots off the pace in the tournament but now a projected second in the season-long race for gold.
The round included the hottest start of Fitzpatrick's career with five birdies in a row.
After the round, Fitzpatrick said:
Fitzpatrick started the week in third position in the DP World Tour Rankings but as a result of his fast start at Jumeirah Golf Estates, a venue he has won twice on previously, the reigning US Open champion is currently on track to win his first points race on the former European Tour circuit.
If Fitzpatrick wins a third DP World Tour Championship on Sunday, then he automatically wins the DP World Tour Rankings.
He would also win it if McIlroy finishes worse than seventh and Ryan Fox does not win.
McIlroy was understandably a little deflated after his opening-round 71:
Fitzpatrick's compatriot Tyrrell Hatton matched his round of 7-under par but it could have been so much better had he not made bogey on the par-5 18th.
Sweden's Alex Noren carded a blemish-free 66 to lie just one shot off the pace after 18 holes, with Spain's Adri Arnaus a further shot back on 5-under par.
Elsewhere, Jon Rahm finished the day one shot better than McIlroy on 2-under par, while in-form Fox, who started the day in second spot in the rankings, could only manage a round of 1-over 73. That pushes the New Zealander back to third as it stands right now.
Should a player win both the DP World Tour Championship and the DP World Tour Rankings in the process, then they walk away with a whopping $5 million.
DP World Tour Championship R1 Leaderboard
-7 M Fitzpatrick, T Hatton (Eng)
-6 A Noren (Swe)
-5 A Aranus (Spa)
-4 T Fleetwood (Eng)
-2 J Rahm (Spa)
-1 R McIlroy (NI)
+1 R Fox (NZ)