Hong Kong Open: Tommy Fleetwood in awe of Aaron Rai’s course record: ‘I wish I could have watched it’
- The 2017 Race to Dubai winner is eight shots off the lead heading into the weekend
- His five-under-par 65 on Friday features six birdies
It’s not often you shoot a five-under-par 65 at the Honma Hong Kong Open and lose ground on the leaders, but that was exactly what happened to Tommy Fleetwood at Fanling on Friday.
The Englishman was left in awe of countryman Aaron Rai’s nine-under-par 61, a course record which saw him reach 14-under and pull eight shots clear of Fleetwood.
“It’s great golf that. Very, very impressive stuff, I wish I could have watched it,” Fleetwood said. “He could be on the winning score, the winning score could be less than that or he could keep going.
“If he carries on or makes any headway at the weekend, I’m quite happy for him to win really, he deserves it.”
To put Rai’s position into perspective, Wade Ormsby won last year’s tournament with just 11-under, however Fleetwood knows anything can happen on the tight Fanling course.
“You get punished for bad golf and if you play well you’ve got a chance of scoring a really good one, like we’ve seen when we’ve been looking at the scoreboard,” he said. “I’ve got two more rounds left of the year and hopefully I can make them good ones.”
While Fleetwood has plenty of ground to make up to give himself a chance to be in the finish on Sunday afternoon, he knows the slow and steady approach is the only way forward.
“It’s so difficult to be aggressive because the course can catch you out at any moment,” he said. “We’ve played 36 holes, there’s 36 more to go and as soon as you get ahead of yourself round here you’re going to just lose it, you’re going to get punished so I’ll just keep plodding on.
“I’d like to do a lot more of the stuff I did today and just try and get a few of the wedges a bit closer, that’s the only things I’ll be focusing on really and then I’ll see what happens.”
Fleetwood carded six birdies and a bogey in a round that left him “pretty happy” and sits in a tie for fifth at six-under.
“I got away with a couple of mis-hits off the tee, because the course is so punishing once you miss the fairways,” he said.
“My irons where better, it was a much stronger hit today and I rolled a couple of putts in at the end so I’m pretty happy with the day.”
Fleetwood fared best of the day’s marquee group, with Ormsby and 2017 Masters champion Sergio Garcia both shooting 67 to move to three-under-par overall.
“It was a bit of a shame, it was looking like a nice 64 or 65 but unfortunately I made a couple of bogeys there late,” said Garcia, who bogeyed two of his final three holes.
“It’s good to shoot under par but I’ll need a really good weekend,” he added, saying he is unsure whether he has it in him to make a push for the title over the final two days of the tournament.
“I don’t know if I’m building or not, I’m tired and I’m looking forward to resting but I’ll give my best effort on the weekend and see what I can do.”