Matt Wallace’s day at Jumeriah Estates began like most others. A handful of birdies on the front side of the Earth Course saw the Englishman turn in 33 before entering a zone few have rarely seen. Making birdie on every hole of his back nine, Wallace signed for a 12-under 60 to turn a seven-stroke deficit into a one-stroke lead heading into the final round of the 2023 DP World Tour Championship. Standing at 16 under, Wallace will have to contend with some of the heaviest hitters in the game over the final 18 as Viktor Hovland and Tommy Fleetwood make up his closest pursuers.
Wallace’s 12 birdies in a round, nine birdies in a row, nine-hole score in relation to par (-9) and in sum (27) matched DP World Tour records. His third shot from the greenside bunker on the par-5 18th, his 59th stroke of the day, settled two feet from the pin. Since preferred lies were in place, Wallace’s accolades will technically not earn a place in European history books.
“What a day, an amazing day,” Wallace said. “I just tried my hardest to get myself back into the tournament. I’m really happy that I’ve been able to do that. Played great. At the end, I didn’t even think there was a 59. 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.
“Kind of gutted now actually a little bit. Great opportunity to do it. I’ve done it at Moorpark on the West Course, which is only a par 68, but to do it out there would have been really special today. Ball in hand helps. I had a couple good lies for up-and-down, but it was fantastic and a good effort for 59.”
Wallace will now be tasked with one of the most difficult prospects in professional golf: following up a great round with another. Surging to the top of the leaderboard, Wallace finds himself in the final pair of Sunday’s action alongside Fleetwood, who had a heater of his own early Saturday.
Carding five birdies in his first seven holes, Fleetwood grabbed a share of the lead before hitting some turbulence during the middle portion of his round. This unsteadiness turned into jubilation when Fleetwood’s eagle bid from outside 50 feet on the par-5 14th found the bottom of the cup. A birdie soon followed, but a three-putt bogey on 17 and a mess of a par on the finisher saw Fleetwood finish his day with his second straight 66 to put him at 15 under.
“I’m very happy with the fact that you get to the final day of the year and I’m still playing well, still feel fresh and I’m still motivated and in contention,” said Fleetwood. “I take a lot of pleasure out of that. I think it’s easy to shut off when you get so far down the season, but I kind of pride myself on going all the way.
“We’ll see tomorrow. It was great today. Out there playing with one of the best golfers in the world and trying to go toe-to-toe with Viktor. Just look forward to more of it tomorrow. It’s been great so far.”
Fleetwood’s score was matched by Hovland, who has been in lockstep with his Ryder Cup teammate the first three days with rounds of 69-66-66. The FedEx Cup champion looks to become the first player since Henrik Stenson in 2013 to win the final event of the season in both the United States and Europe.
“It’s been a crazy year,” said Hovland. “It kind of feels like it has been the off-season. I have had six weeks off. This is another big one and would be really nice to have on the resumé and I feel like I’m playing some good golf. I gave myself a lot of looks. Didn’t necessarily feel like I made a lot of putts. It was very close to the edges but it was very solid so hopefully tomorrow they drop in.”