Wallace birdies the entire back 9 in Dubai and leads European tour finale

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Matt Wallace of England made a 30-foot birdie putt on the 10th hole and didn't stop until he birdied the rest of them, tying a European tour best with nine birdies in a row for a 12-under 60 that shot him into the lead Saturday in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship.

“That was fun,” Wallace said as he walked off the 18th green on the Earth course at Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Even better was the 54-hole lead when Tommy Fleetwood, Viktor Hovland and 36-hole leader Nicolai Hojgaard couldn't catch him.

Wallace hit the ball so purely down the stretch that his final six birdie putts covered a total of 15 feet, 8 inches (nearly 5 meters). He finished at 16-under 200 and led by one shot over Fleetwood and Hovland, who each had a 66.

“An amazing day. Just tried my hardest to get myself back into the tournament," said Wallace, who started the day seven shots behind. “I'm really happy that I’ve been able to do that.”

Fleetwood got off to a hot start with five birdies in seven holes, slowed in the middle, and then came to life with a 60-foot eagle putt on the par-5 14th. He was tied with Wallace after a birdie on the 16th, only to three-putt for bogey on the par-3 17th and muff a wedge from thick rough that kept him from a good birdie chance on the par-5 closing hole.

Hovland played bogey-free, though he failed to birdie the par 5s on the back nine with poor tee shots. Even so, the Norwegian star was in position to capture the season-ending titles on the PGA Tour and the European tour.

“It would be really cool,” Hovland said. “It's been a crazy year. It feels like it has been an offseason — six weeks off — but this is another big one. It would be a nice to have on the resume.”

Masters champion Jon Rahm, a three-time winner of this season-ending event, hit a fairway metal from out of the trees, over the water and onto the 18th green to set up a birdie and a 67, leaving him five shots behind and still in the mix.

Rory McIlroy also had a 67, but he was eight shots back.

Hovland said the grain in the rain-softened greens made it tricky to hole putts. Then he was told of Wallace posting a 60 and he laughed.

“That's ridiculous,” Hovland said.

The European tour record is nine consecutive birdies by James Nitties of Australia in the 2019 Vic Open, and 12 birdies for a round by Raphaël Jacquelin in the 2013 Turkish Open. Wallace matched both those marks, but it will not be listed as an official record because of preferred lies due to the turf softened by overnight rain.

Bernd Wiesberger also had nine straight birdies in the Maybank Championship in Malaysia in 2017, also with preferred lies.

Wallace was no less amazing, particularly how close he kept hitting it. He began the back nine with a 30-foot birdie putt, followed with one from 18 feet and the rest of the way he only had two birdie putts from the 6-foot range. The rest were 3 feet or closer.

He had a chance at only the second 59 in European tour history. Wallace was 202 yards away in the fairway on the par-5 18th, but fanned his long iron into a bunker. He blasted out to inches away for one last birdie.

“I didn’t even think there was a 59,” Wallace said. “Honestly, I think it helped me a little bit. I just played nicely coming down the stretch, just keep getting one more if I could and I managed to do that.”

Hojgaard, meanwhile, was in control for so much of the round until he let it get away in the end. The 22-year-old Dane hit into the trees on the par-5 14th and had to make a 7-foot par putt on the second-easiest hole on the back nine.

He found a bunker on the island-green 17th and made bogey, then hit his approach into the creek on the 18th and closed with a bogey. That gave him a 70 and left him three shots behind.

His twin brother, Rasmus Hojgaard, had a 65 and was a further two shots behind. Rasmus was in position to earn one of 10 spots on the PGA Tour next year.


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