Molinari, An tied at the top
Francesco Molinaro was joined at the top of the BMW PGA Championship leaderboard by Byeong Hun An after Saturday’s third round.
The duo are tied on 14 under par headed into Sunday’s final round at Wentworth, though a couple of men made significant charges with a pair of superb shots to lie just off their lead.
Thai veteran Thongchai Jaidee lies in third place after a 68, two shots back, but an albatross from England’s Tommy Fleetwood has left him just a stroke behind in fourth, while Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez carded his third hole-in-one of the season to move into fifth place a further shot back.
Fleetwood had already birdied the first when he holed out with a seven iron from 198 yards on the par-five fourth for just the third albatross in the history of the tournament.
“That was about as good as you can play a hole of golf,” he said afterwards. “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 would eventually sign for a seven-under-par 65 after also eagling the par-five 12th.
The 24-year-old changed coaches after finishing 19 over par in the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral in March, and credits the switch with kickstarting his 2015 campaign.
“I played practice rounds at Doral with Henrik Stenson and Graeme McDowell and knew I could not compete with them,” he added. “Any time you feel like that you have to do something about it.
“Doral is one of the toughest courses I’ve ever played and that was a nightmare. The course just completely ate me alive. The stuff we’ve done with Pete (Cowen) has been excellent and it’s made a massive difference.
“The last seven or eight months I’ve had a lot of top fives and a lot of top threes. I’ve come close and people have just played better than me. There’s not much I could have done about it. It’s just such a fine line between winning and finishing second and third.
“You want to be remembered for winning and it would be great to win this week. This ranks as high as it can get. It’s the biggest event on the European Tour and the European players’ fifth major. So many great players have won it and it’s one you want on your mantelpiece at the end of your career.”
Moments after Fleewood’s albatross, Jimenez holed out with a nine iron from the tee on the short second. Incredibly, it was his third ace of the year on the European Tour, 10th overall, and also the second time he’s managed three in a season. There was also a 17-year gap between his fourth and fifth aces, from 1991 to 2008.
Jimenez would go on to post a 68.
“It’s very prolific this year, the last few months,” said the 51-year-old.
“You get the right distance, the right club, hit a good shot and that’s the ingredients you need to make a hole-in-one. It’s nice to have the record.”
Both Molinari and An kept up the pace to stay at the top, however, the Italian compiling a solid 68 and An joining him at the top with a well-played 67.
“There were a few guys flying at the start with the albatross and other stuff you don’t want to see when you’re leading a tournament,” said Molinari. “I stayed calm and overall it was a good day.
“Every tournament is different but to win here would be pretty much at the same level I would say as the WGC events. I think it’s one of these tournaments that it’s just a little step underneath the Majors but definitely one that you want to have on your resume in your career.”
An said: “I was really consistent all day. I hit it well and then missed a couple of shots, which is possible on this course, but overall I played great today.”
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