Sunday 18 March 2018

Danny Willett fires hole-in-one and course record 63 at Fota Island

Danny Willett
Danny Willett

England's Danny Willett fired his second hole-in-one in the space of two months on his way to a course-record 63 that vaulted him into contention for the Irish Open on Saturday.

Willett's previous ace earnt him a V40 Cross Country from the tournament sponsors in the final round of the Volvo China Open at the end of April.

And although the 26-year-old did not win anything for his "slam dunk" effort on the seventh hole at Fota Island - a £65,000 BMW 640 Gran Coupe was on offer on the 13th - it sparked a brilliant round and helped set the clubhouse target of 11 under par.

"We had a perfect number, 168 yards with an eight iron but you never expect it to slam dunk," Willett said. "That was a bit of a bonus."

Fresh from finishing 45th on his US Open debut at Pinehurst last week, Willett had already birdied the fourth and added another at the eighth to reach the turn in 32.

The former English Amateur champion's challenge was slowed by a run of four straight pars on the back nine, but he then birdied four of the last five holes to beat the previous course record of 64 set by Mikko Ilonen on Thursday.

"We've been playing great for a long time but could not seem to get anything going on the greens," added Willett, whose sole European Tour title to date came in the BMW International Open in 2012. "But holing a wedge yesterday (for an eagle on the second) and an eight iron today certainly helps.

"Coming from the US Open last week it was a slightly different mentality, it was quite tricky to stop playing 20 feet away from the flags and on the first day we were too cautious.

"There's a score out there and it just depends if anyone takes it, but a good round today has put us in a good position."

Ilonen had led ever since his opening 64 and remained top of the leaderboard midway through his round, birdies on the second and third taking the Finn to 12 under par.

Playing partner Robert Rock was a shot behind Willett on 10 under after three birdies and one bogey on the front nine, with England's Matthew Baldwin and Paraguay's Fabrizio Zanotti safely in the clubhouse on nine under following rounds of 66 and 65 respectively.

Former US Open champion Graeme McDowell was a shot behind on eight under after a birdie on the 11th repaired some of the damage caused by bogeys on the eighth and ninth.

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