Australia lead World Cup

2011-11-24 12:05

Hainan - The Australian duo of Brendan Jones and Richard Green shot an impressive 11-under-par 61 on Thursday to take an early lead at the World Cup and upstage Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.

LEADERBOARD: World Cup of Golf

The unfancied pair carded seven birdies and an eagle each during their aggressive round-one play on the par-72 Blackstone course at the Mission Hills golf resort on the southern Chinese island of Hainan.

"We combined very well today. Brendan obviously started very well and built the momentum," said Green.

"This helped me progress with my game towards the back nine. I was able to contribute a little bit, and get the eagle on the par-four 16th. That really helped us at that stage."

The Irish pairing of McIlroy and McDowell, the drawcard and favourites, made a late back-nine charge on the Australians to end the first day tied second on nine-under 63.

World number two and US Open champion McIlroy played the lead hand, making five birdies and an eagle, while 2010 US Open winner McDowell contributed two birdies to leave the pairing lurking ominously.

"We set a target around eight to 10-under par that we thought was going to be a good score. We managed to shoot something around that, and that puts us in a great position going into the next three days," said McIlory.

McDowell said the pair will discuss their strategy at length ahead of Friday's challenging foursomes alternate shot format second round.

"This is a tricky golf course. It's pretty wide open off the tee. But in that kind of a wind strength, you have to control your iron play going into the greens and we did that well today," he said.

The Irishmen are tied in second with Scotland's Martin Laird and Stephen Gallacher.

Dutch duo Joost Luiten and Robert-Jan Derksen carded a 64 to lie tied fourth with USA's Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland.

England's Ian Poulter and Justin Rose hit seven birdies to reach the clubhouse on six-under 66 and are tied 10th with France and Japan, among a host of others.

Defending World Cup holders, brothers Francesco and Edoardo Molinari, who won the title for Italy the last time the event was staged, in 2009, carded a 67 to lie tied 19th.

Liang Wenchong and fledgling talent Zhang Xinjun, the home hopes, scored a 68 and were tied 22nd with Brazil, South Africa and Singapore.

Friday's round two will see the 28 national teams tee off in foursomes playing alternate shots.

The tournament format is two rounds apiece of foursomes and fourballs with the lowest 72-hole score winning.

According to organisers, 120 000 tickets have been sold for the four-day event, a sign that the game continues to boom in the world's most populous country.

Following golf's inclusion in the Olympics from Brazil 2016, the World Cup is to be held biennially.

Some critics have complained the tournament is diminished because it suffers from golf's crowded calendar, attracting only a token number of top ranking players.

Mission Hills Group vice-chairperson Tenniel Chu said he and his co-owner brother Kenneth - both sons of the late "father of Chinese golf" David Chu - are embarking on a huge marketing campaign to raise the tournament's reputation as a marquee event.

"We aim to make the Mission Hills Hainan the World Cup headquarters and will introduce some drastic changes to the competition to help build its profile," he said.

Scores on Thursday after the fourball first round of the $7.5 million Omega Mission Hills World Cup (two days of fourball and two days of foursomes with two-man teams):

61 - Austalia (Brendan Jones / Richard Green)

63 - Ireland (Graeme McDowell / Rory McIlroy), Scotland (Stephen Gallacher / Martin Laird)

64 - USA (Gary Woodland / Matt Kuchar), Netherlands (Robert-Jan Derksen / Joost Luiten)

65 - Colombia (Manny Villegas / Camilo Villegas), Germany (Alex Cejka / Martin Kaymer), Denmark (Anders Hansen / Thorbjorn Olesen), Spain (Alvaro Quiros / Miguel Angel Jimenez)

66 - Thailand (Kiradech Aphibarnrat / Thongchai Jaidee), France (Gregory Bourdy / Raphael Jacquelin), Sweden (Alexander Noren / Robert Karlsson), Mexico (Jose de Jesus Rodriguez / Oscar Serna), Korea (Kim Hyung-Sung / Park Sung-Joon), England (Justin Rose / Ian Poulter), Japan (Yuta Ikeda / Tetsuji Hiratsuka), New Zealand (Gareth Paddison / Michael Hendry), Zimbabwe (Brendon de Jonge / Bruce McDonald)


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