Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell find themselves 10 strokes behind leaders Denmark and the United States after the opening round of the ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf at Royal Melbourne.
“Bit of a disaster today,” tweeted Lowry, who is joint 46th in the individual standings. “But hey that’s golf. Always tomorrow. #”
At the top of the leaderboard, Denmark’s Thomas Björn overcame a four-putt double bogey to sign for a five under 66 and a share of the lead with American Kevin Streelman.
It was a real rollercoaster road for McDowell, who birdied the first two holes, bogyed the third and birdied the fourth before following a bogey at the fifth with the first of two double bogeys at the sixth.
Another bogey at the eighth left him on two over before he holed out for an eagle two at the ninth to turn in level par.
After following another bogey at the 13th with back-to-back-birdies at the 15th and 16th, McDowell then undid all his good work with a six at the last to end the day tied for 21st in the individual standings.
Lowry had three birdies, five bogeys and a double bogey six at the sixth in his 75 with his final bogey of the day coming at the 18th.
Björn and fellow Dane Thorbjørn Olesen are also level with America on five under par in the team event after Olesen signed for a level par round of 71, the same score as Streelman’s compatriot Matt Kuchar.
The nearest Denmark have come to World Cup success was back in 2001, when Björn and partner Søren Hansen finished runner-up under the old format.
And the 42 year old is in contention to go one better in Melbourne after an eight foot birdie putt at the last hole set the seal on a satisfying day’s work.
He said: “I played well today. After the fourth hole, I thought to myself “Well, this could be a long day.” But I just kept my composure, made some good birdies and kept playing solid all the way to the end. It was a nice day, but it’s always a nice day here.
“When you wake up in the morning and you know you’re going to go and play Royal Melbourne, you get excited about it. It is, in my eyes, probably the finest golf course you can ever play. You have got to play smart golf, and I could play it every day for the rest of my life and be happy.”
At one point it had looked like Streelman might open up a sizeable lead, but two bogeys in his final three holes brought the American back to the field.
Third place is currently shared between Korean KJ Choi, Scotland’s Martin Laird and Welshman Stuart Manley, who all signed for founds of 67.
Manley, who regained his European Tour card at last week’s Qualifying School Final Stage, is the surprise package in the leading quintet, and the 34 year old was indebted to a solid display on Royal Melbourne’s daunting greens.
He said: “I holed out really well today. I left myself a lot of four, five and six-footers for par, but I seemed to knock them in, which was good for my confidence. The greens here are very, very fast but they’re also very true, so if you hit a good putt they tend to go in.”
Jason Day currently occupies sixth spot on three under par, but his fellow Australian and the pre-tournament favourite Adam Scott fared less well, carding a nine on the 12th hole en route to signing for a round of 75.