Ireland two off World Cup pace after opening 63

Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy at the OMEGA Mission Hills World Cup, Mission Hills Resort,Hainan Island, China. Picture Phil Inglis www.golffile.ieRory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell opened with a betterball 63 to keep leaders Australia in their sights at the Omega Mission Hills World Cup in China.

But while they are perfectly placed in a share of second place, they know that the key to avenging their narrow loss to Italy in 2009 will come in the foursomes.

Brendan Jones and Richard Green fired a sensational 11 under par 61 to give Australia a two stroke lead over Ireland and Scottish pair Martin Laird and Stephen Gallacher at the Mission Hills Resort (Click for scores).

After helping McIlroy card seven birdies and an eagle in a nine under par effort on a blustery opening day, McDowell said: “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.

“I think we kind of complemented each other’s game out there. When one was out, the other was in and vice versa. We are both playing solid.  

“Tomorrow is the most important format in this tournament.  You know, tomorrow and Sunday are the big days, and Thursday and Saturday are the days where you can make up some ground.

“Tomorrow will separate the men from the boys a little bit and we are very happy the way we are playing, so excited about tomorrow’s foursomes.”

McIlroy, who saved a fine par at the last to keep a bogey off Ireland’s card, added: “We sort of set a target around eight to 10 under par that we thought was going to be a good score out there and we managed to shoot something around that, and you know, puts us in a great position going into the next three days.

“The four balls this week are where you’re going to make most of your birdies, and the foursomes is a more demanding format.  Both players need to be on their games to shoot a low score. So you know, it was a good start but we know we still have got a tough job ahead of us.”

The Australians have seven birdies and two back nine eagles in their 61 and were understandably delighted with their start and keen to improve on their third place finish together in 2008.

“We combined very well today,” said Green, who eagled the par four 16th. “Brendan obviously started very well and built the momentum.

“In this game, it’s just a matter of positioning yourself and giving the other guy an opportunity if you are slightly out of position and allowing them to be a little bit more aggressive.

“We did that well all day and it didn’t matter what hole we were faced with - we just combined so well. It was a very, very good day.”

Jones added: “It was a lot of fun. As Richard said, I made a few birdies to get the momentum started.  I made a good eagle on 12, and then Richard took over.

“But he’s such an easy guy to play with, because he’s in play all the time, and between us, there was always someone in the hole to give the other guy a chance.

“We just combined perfectly. We never doubled up on birdies, and that’s the key in this game. You want to make a lot of birdies, but you don’t want to make them on the same hole, and that’s what we did.”

The Netherlands pair of Robert-Jan Derksen and Joost Luiten share fourth place with Americans Gary Woodland and Matt Kuchar, just three strokes off the pace after eight under 64’s.

England’s Justin Rose and Ian Poulter are tied for 10th place after a 66.