Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell bounced back from a double bogey seven to open with a level par 72 and trail Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello and John Rahm by just three shots in the ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf at a windy Kingston Heath Golf Club in Melbourne.
With Scots Duncan Stewart and Russell Knox bringing up the rear on six over after a 78 and Australia’s Adam Scott and Marc Leishman struggling to a 74 to sit in the middle of the pack, there was a wide spread among the 28 two-man teams after the foursomes.
Cabrera Bello and Rahm made an eagle, two birdies and a lone bogey for their 69 as the Irish pair started with seven straight pars before that double bogey seven at the eighth left them with work to do.
They birdied the par-four ninth, the par-five 13th and the par-three 14th to get into red figures and while a bogey at the last was not ideal, they are well in touch, tied for seventh place with Sweden’s Alex Noren and David Lingmerth and Denmark’s Søren KJjeldsen and Thorbjorn Olesen heading into Friday’s fourballs.
Cabrera Bello birdied the last when his putt hung on the lip and then dropped, appearing to defy the laws of gravity.
“That was a fun putt because when I was seeing it, it looked like I couldn’t miss and then all of a sudden it could really miss and I don’t know how it came back,” Cabera Bello said.
“It’s been a good day. I think we played well. It was obviously tough and tricky with the wind. But Jon played great, I rolled some putts and hit some good shots as well, so I think it was a score we’re proud of but also a score we deserve.”
Cabrera Bello has not missed a cut all season on the European Tour in 2016 and had five top-25 finishes in 10 starts on the PGA Tour — three were top-10s — to earn his 2016-17 PGA Tour card via top 125 non-member list.
Rahm, 22, made a splash during the 2015-16 PGA Tour season, with six top-25 finishes in nine starts, led by a share of second at the RBC Canadian Open and a share of third at the Quicken Loans National.
The fourth-most successful country in World Cup history with four wins, Spain are searching for their first victory since 1984 and lead by one stroke on three under from Americans Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler, China’s Wu Ashun and Li Haotong and French duo Victor Dubuisson and Romain Langasque.
England and Italy, whose impressive early momentum was brought to a juddering halt by a triple bogey eight on the par five 12th hole, are joint fifth oj one under par heading into Friday’s fourballs.
Childhood friends Dubuisson and Langasque enjoyed their first round playing together as Team France.
“We are very good friends and for us to play together here, it’s like a dream from back when we were children. So I’m very happy with our score today because it was really tough,” said Dubuisson.
On Thanksgiving Day, when a majority of Americans spend time cooking, eating, watching football and taking time to be thankful, Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker were thankful for each other as partners after both pointed to key shots made by the other as part of their 2-under-par opening round.
“I’m thankful to have a stud partner,” said Walker, the 2016 U.S. PGA Championship winner. “Rickie putted really well and made some clutch putts beginning of the round. Putting really saved us today.”
Walker added: “I think we got everything out of it I think we could have. Rickie hit it great, hit some good shots. It was an all-around effort.”
Fowler added: “It wasn't playing easy out there. You know, we’re going to miss shots in alternate shot, it’s just the way it is.
“I think we did a good job picking each other up when needed. Jimmy hit some great shots, drove the ball well and made some putts when he needed to.”
At one-under, the English team of Chris Wood and Andy Sullivan share fifth place alongside the Italian duo of Francesco Molinari and Matteo Manassero.
Shooting a two-over 74 to be tied for 14th after the first round was not the way Team Australia had hoped to start their title defence with Adam Scott and Marc Leishman struggling to find momentum in the challenging conditions.
“Obviously it’s a little disappointing. They were tough conditions and definitely not what we wanted for the first round,” said Leishman.
Scott added: “I think it was just the wind. It’s very tough to gauge exactly what’s going on out there when it’s blustery.
“We had no momentum today but in these conditions, it's about as hard as it gets playing foursomes in blustery conditions around a tricky course.”
The second round of the ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf, which will be played in the four-ball format, gets underway at 8.28am, with the last group due out on course at 11.30am.
Jon Rahm (Spain)
“This kind of course and this type of golf than what I’m used to playing in the States. But we planned our strategy which had me hitting most of the tee shots. And then he hit a couple of great shots, rolled some putts in and that’s pretty much what we needed. But it wasn’t so much about hitting great shots, it was more about avoiding mistakes and we did that perfectly.”
Wu Ashun (China)
“It was very good and my partner was playing very well and we made a lot of birdies, so it was very exciting to play.
“We made I think the best putt [on the last hole]. It was just unbelievable. Li was giving me some ideas on the breaks and talked about speed, it was very fast this afternoon and the winds were blowing too. So we talked a little bit on the line and he said just take it easy, just relax and putt and it goes in. It’s unbelievable.”
Jimmy Walker (USA)
“I think we got everything out of the round that we could’ve done today, and that’s what it takes to play well and stay in a golf tournament. We didn’t have the easiest bunker shots, there were a couple of them where we were short-sided and I gave Rickie a couple of tough putts, but he buried them.
“The course played tough today, it really did. I thought starting out today that if you shot anything under par, it was going to be pretty good. All the par fives played straight into the wind today. So we had to battle all day, and it really was a battle at times but I feel like we came out on top.”
Adam Scott (Australia)
“I think it was just the wind. It’s very tough to gauge exactly what’s going on out there when it’s blustery.
“We had no momentum today but in these conditions, it’s about as hard as it gets playing foursomes in blustery conditions around a tricky course.”
Round One Scores:
1 Rafa CABRERA BELLO / Jon RAHM ESP 69 -3
2 WU Ashun / LI Haotong CHN 70 -2
Victor DUBUISSON / Romain LANGASQUE FRA 70 -2
Rickie FOWLER / Jimmy WALKER USA 70 -2
5 Francesco MOLINARI / Matteo MANASSERO ITA 71 -1
Chris WOOD / Andy SULLIVAN ENG 71 -1
7 Alex NOREN / David LINGMERTH SWE 72 0
Shane LOWRY / Graeme MCDOWELL IRL 72 0
Søren KJELDSEN / Thorbjørn OLESEN DEN 72 0
10 Thongchai JAIDEE / Kiradech APHIBARNRAT THA 73 1
Hideki MATSUYAMA / Ryo ISHIKAWA JPN 73 1
Thomas PIETERS / Nicolas COLSAERTS BEL 73 1
Bernd WIESBERGER / Martin WIEGELE AUT 73 1
14 Bradley DREDGE / Stuart MANLEY WAL 74 2
Byeong Hun AN / K.T. KIM KOR 74 2
C.T. Pan / CHAN Shih-chang TPE 74 2
S.S.P CHAWRASIA / CHIKKARANGAPPA S IND 74 2
Jhonattan VEGAS / Julio VEGAS VEN 74 2
Adam SCOTT / Marc LEISHMAN AUS 74 2
Ricardo GOUVEIA / José-Filipe LIMA POR 74 2
Alex CEJKA / Stephan JAEGER GER 74 2
22 Joost LUITEN / Darius VAN DRIEL NED 75 3
David HEARN / Adam HADWIN CAN 75 3
Danny LEE / Ryan FOX NZL 75 3
25 Jaco VAN ZYL / George COETZEE RSA 76 4
26 Miguel TABUENA / Angelo QUE PHI 77 5
Danny CHIA / Nicholas FUNG MAS 77 5
28 Russell KNOX / Duncan STEWART SCO 78 6