History-maker Matt Wallace birdies every hole on back nine

Matt Wallace of England acknowledges the crowd on the 18th green during Day Three of the DP World Tour Championship on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates on November 18, 2023 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
'I just love making birdies,' Matt Wallace said after making nine in a row on the back nine in Dubai - Getty Images/Andrew Redington

Matt Wallace made history by becoming the first male professional in a top flight tournament to birdie every hole on either the back nine or the front nine.

The Englishman’s otherworldly inward half here at the Earth Course thrust him 20 places up the scoreboard into a one-shot lead over compatriot Tommy Fleetwood and Norwegian Viktor Hovland heading into the final round at this season-ending DP World Tour Championship. And although the £2.4million first prize is tantalisingly in sight, Wallace, at the very least, has a new record to celebrate.

Of course, the pedants will point out that as the “preferred lie” rule was in operation on the saturated layout, Wallace’s 60 was not official. Yet nobody can deny the 33-year-old from London signed an unprecedented scorecard in the men’s game.

Back in 2015 Amy Yang shot her own 27 on the LPGA Tour to become the first to make birdies on every hole in a single nine. Wallace now joins the Korean in their own exclusive club.

“What a day! That was special,” Wallace said, after his lowest-ever round in pro competition in which he equalled Darren Clarke’s mark of 12 birdies. “I didn’t know that if I’d holed that bunker shot on the 18th that it would have been a 59 and I wish I had known because it might have spurred me on to make it.

“I knew it was nine in a row, though, and Tim [Barter, the Sky Sports interviewer] just told me I’d equalled the record for most consecutive birdies. But I’m pleased that I’m the first to do it in a single nine. I’ll always have that which is special.”

At the 2019 Vic Open, Australian James Nitties emulated Bernd Wiesberger’s nine-hole streak two years before in Malaysia. On the PGA Tour, Mark Calcavecchia in 2009 at the Canadian Open did likewise, as did Kevin Chappell four years ago in West Virginia. But all those runs were made around the turn. There is something purer - not to mention much neater with the pencil - about doing it in the style of Wallace and Yang.

“I guess I’m just not scared to go low – I just love making birdies,” Wallace, the world No 87, said. “I always want to make one more, always want to push forward. And I guess that showed. When you shoot 27, it is hard to say which was your best shot, but the three wood on to the [par five] 14th was great and the six iron to the 12th was also special.

Matt Wallace of England plays his third shot on the 18th hole from a bunker during Day Three of the DP World Tour Championship on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates on November 18, 2023 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Holing this bunker shot on 18 would have given Wallace a score of 59 - Getty Images/Andrew Redington

“Maybe the most important was the tee-shot on the [par three] 17th, because I was in between clubs and hit a soft seven iron to hold it up and then holed a seven-footer.

“I didn’t really miss a shot to be honest. It’s funny, because Dan [Bradbury, his playing partner] said to me as we came off the 18th ‘I felt like I shot five-over, but I shot four-under’. Crucially, I needed something like this to get back into this tournament. When I come out tomorrow I will try to make it 10 birdies in a row and then 11.”

To fend off Hovland and Fleetwood, Wallace will no doubt need to stay on a roll. The Ryder Cup pair fired a pair of 66s to loom ominously, with Jon Rahm, another member of that victorious Europe team and the defending champion here, also in touch, five behind on 11-under after a 67. Rory McIlroy will probably require a day akin to Wallace’s to get into the mix on eight-under following a 65.

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