Fleetwood and Jimenez provide fireworks
Rory McIlroy’s absence was barely noticed as an albatross from Tommy Fleetwood and a hole-in-one from Miguel Angel Jimenez lit up the third round of the BMW PGA Championship.
Fleetwood holed out with a seven iron from 198 yards on the fourth hole at Wentworth for just the third albatross in the history of the European Tour’s flagship event, which saw defending champion McIlroy miss the cut on Friday.
And moments later, Jimenez recorded his third hole-in-one of the season — he had one in Abu Dhabi in January and won 288 bottles of beer for another in last week’s Spanish Open — by holing out with a nine iron from 150 yards on the second.
Remarkably, Fleetwood went on to complete a “perfect set” on the par fives with an eagle on the 12th, birdie on the 17th and par on the 18th in a round of 65, which took him to 11 under par and three behind joint leaders Francesco Molinari and Byeong Hun An.
Jimenez was another shot back on 10 under after following the 10th ace of his career — which set a new European Tour record by edging him one ahead of Colin Montgomerie — with four birdies and two bogeys in a round of 68.
“That was about as good as you can play a hole of golf,” world number 54 Fleetwood said of his first albatross. “Perfect drive, 198 yards to the pin. I was thinking one (club) less but went with a normal seven iron and it pitched seven or eight feet right of the pin and span in.
“Wobbly (his caddie Phil Morbey) was pretty excited because it was his choice of club, not mine. You have to try and calm down after that, and I fired a five iron miles over the green on the fifth with a little bit of adrenalin.”
Fleetwood was the youngest player to win the Challenge Tour in 2011 and claimed his first European Tour title in a three-man play-off for the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles in 2013.
But despite finishing 19th on the Race to Dubai last season, it took a change of coach after finishing 19 over par in the WGC-Cadillac Championship in March to kick-start his season.
“I played practice rounds at Doral with Henrik Stenson and Graeme McDowell and knew I could not compete with them,” the 24-year-old added. “Any time you feel like that you have to do something about it.
“The last seven or eight months I’ve had a lot of top fives and a lot of top threes. It’s just such a fine line between winning and finishing second and third.”