Graeme McDowell took the blame as Ireland closed with a disastrous double bogey in the first round of the Omega Mission Hills World Cup.
The Ulsterman hooked his drive into water at the intimidating, 460-yard par four and then looked on in agony as team mate Paul McGinley pushed his tee shot into trouble and also took six.
The Irish pair had to be happy with a seven-under par 65 in the fourballs as Germany’s Martin Kaymer and Alex Cejka blasted a 10-under par 62 in blustery conditions to lead by a shot from Australia.
Still upbeat despite slipping from second place to tied sixth, McDowell said: “We’re disappointed with what happened at the last but it was a tricky day and we gelled well.
“You don’t expect to be making bogeys and certainly not double bogeys but I dumped my partner in it a little bit with my tee shot and Paul had to bail out down the right and pulled an awful lie and an awful lie for his third shot as well.
“The last was a little painful but today was about positioning ourselves and we have positioned ourselves quite nicely. From what I gather, the World Cup is mostly about the foursomes.
“We have two tough games of foursomes to come and another round of fourballs. I think our games are very well suited for foursomes.”
McDowell and McGinley went to the turn in four under par before scorching into second place when they followed an eagle three by the Ulsterman at the 11th with birdies at the 12th, 14th and 15th.
McDowell added: “Nobody is going to run six or seven shots ahead in this format. The foursomes are the key and we have got to go out tomorrow, play as solidly as we played today and knock it around in a few under par to keep ourselves in the tournament.
“Those few shots are gone now but we probably would have taken seven-under par standing on the 10th tee today.”
Kaymer and Cejka had an eagle and eight birdies in their 62 to lead a shot from Australia’s Richard Green and Brendan Jones with Canada, Spain and the United States tied for third on eight under .
Ireland are tied for sixth with Denmark, New Zealand and tournament favourites Sweden while Colin Montgomerie and Alastair Forsyth couldn’t buy a putt as defending champions Scotland finished on four-under par.
Instead the day belonged to Germany. Kaymer has won twice on The European Tour this year as he has established himself as one of the world’s top young players while Cejka is back playing again in his first full event following surgery to repair a trapped nerve in the summer. Of the two players, Kaymer in particular played beautifully as he contributed six birdies and an eagle to the German cause.
“Martin played really solid golf today,” said Cejka. “He made a lot of birdies, an eagle, and I just tried to contribute a couple of times. We have three more rounds to go and we are delighted to be here. We are leading, and I think it's a great start for Germany.”
Kaymer was quick to point out it was a team effort and having fun is the key, commenting: “You want to perform well and you want to play well, but this is a team event, and I think we should just enjoy this week. This is the last tournament for most of the players in the year, and we should just enjoy this week and have fun. Of course, we want to play well, and we will try our best this week. And it’s always nice if you can play for your country.”
The Australian pair of Green and Jones are also delighted to be representing their country this week. It could have been a tough decision to come and play in China with the Sportsbet Australian Masters taking place in Green’s home city of Melbourne, but despite the obvious pull of a home event he won in 2004, he was not going to pass up the opportunity of playing in the Omega Mission Hills World Cup.
Green said: “To play for Australia is a huge honour; both Brendan and I feel that way. Both myself and Brendan have focused on the World Cup and winning for Australia, and doing as good a job as we can.”
Jones backed up his partners passion for the playing under the Australian flag when he said: “I represented Australia at the amateur level, but when there's two professionals that get a chance once a year to represent their country, I just think it's one of the greatest honours.
“As Richard said, we both really want to be here and we both really want to do well. So we're a quarter of the way there, and I'm sure if we would hold the World Cup at the end of the week, I'm sure that there would be a few people playing the Australian Masters that they wish they were in our shoes.”
Pablo Larrazabal, the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year on The European Tour, is clearly enjoying his role as the junior partner alongside the vastly experienced Ryder Cup player, Miguel Angel Jiménez, and the pair combined well with an opening round of eight under par 64.
“We played very well, we complemented each other very well and it's nice, two shots behind the lead,” said Jimenez. “The leaders will feel the breath on the neck.”
Larrazabal was all smiles at the end. He said: “It's a lot of fun to play with him. We enjoyed it all day out there. If we keep on doing the same, trying to have fun out there, well, let's see what happens.”
There’s plenty of rivalry between the United States and Canada but the Canadian underdogs held their own against their neighbours to also shoot eight under par and lie in a share of third place.
Meanwhile, in the co-sanctioned Australian Masters at Huntingdale in Melbourne, Ballyclare’s Gareth Maybin is struggling to make the cut after opening with a five-over par 77.
The Challenge Tour graduate, tied 24th on his tour debut in Kong Kong last week, failed to recover after dropping five shots in the first 11 holes and trails leaders Tim Clark and Scott Hend by 10 strokes.
Omega Mission Hills World Cup
First round scores, fourball, Par 72
62 Germany (Martin Kaymer, Alex Cejka)
63 Australia (Richard Green, Brendan Jones)
64 Canada (Graham Delaet, Wes Heffernan), USA (Ben Curtis, Brandt Snedeker), Spain (Miguel Angel Jimenez, Pablo Larrazabal
65 New Zealand (Mark Brown, David Smail), Denmark (Soren Hansen, Anders Hansen), Ireland (Graeme McDowell, Paul McGinley), Sweden (Henrik Stenson, Robert Karlsson)
66 Japan (Ryuji Imada, Toru Taniguchi), Mexico (Daniel De Leon, Osca Serna)
67 India (Jeev Mikha Singh,Jyoti Randhawa), Chile (Felipe Aguilar, Mark Tullo), Portugal,(Tiago Cruz, Ricardo Santos), Philippines (Angelo Que, Mars Pucay)
68 France (Gregory Havret , Gregory Bourdy), Chinese Taipei (Lin Wen-tang,Lu Wen-teh), Korea (Bae Sang-moon, Kim Hyung-tae), Scotland (Alastair Forsyth, Colin Montgomerie)
69 Thailand (Prayad Marksaeng, Thongchai Jaidee), Wales (Bradley Dredge, Richard Johnson), England (Ian Poulter, Ross Fisher), Finland (Roope Kakko, Mikko Korhonen), Guatemala (Pablo Acuna, Alejandro Villavicencio), China (Liang Wen-chong, Zhang Lian-wei)
70 Italy (Francesco Molinari, Edoardo Molinari), South Africa (Rory Sabbatini, Richard Sterne)
71 Venezuela (Miguel Martinez, Rual Sanz)