Melbourne golf writer Chris Vogt followed the Aussies, then Scots, around Kingston Heath on the second day of the 2016 World Cup of Golf
MORNINGS are for scoring, they say. Beware the early player, relishing the best of the conditions. Two teams are looking for an opening that might turn around the gloom of yesterday.
Another cool, breezy day at the Heath, and the sun is struggling to emerge. The Scots are first out and the body language tells of a better round ahead. It has to be, as their Day 1 foursomes failed to click, giving up six strokes to par. Likewise, Australians Scott and Leishman never got going yesterday. While they limited the damage, it was a round of miscalculations and chances frittered away. The talk afterward was of the improvement to come in the 4-ball.
A small, appreciative gallery joins the home team in the chill of a 9:10 start. Standing out in more ways than one is the colourful Fanatics, that lively group of sports-obsessed patriots who make their presence felt at the world’s arenas. Today, they’re a small group and a little subdued at this hour, although I’m warned of reinforcements heading here for the weekend. Tony is a local boy, and loves his time in the group.
“We feel it’s our duty to create or add to the atmosphere. Golf’s a spectator sport, and needs to appeal to the younger set in order to grow.” He and several others are locked in for next year’s President’s Cup in New York, and are determined to match it with the rowdy American crowds.
The first holes bring little change to the play of yesterday; Leishman steady, Scott erratic but limiting the damage. Then he hits one close on 5 and is away. The putt awakens a gallery which, until now, has loped quietly along, hoping for something to happen. Leishman consolidates with a par to a difficult pin.
Adam Scott seems ill at ease on the greens, yet you always feel the next one will drop. He promptly pulls his tee shot at 7, skates the recovery short and right, then chips elegantly to a metre. And the sun peeks through…
Elsewhere, sparse crowds are adding colour to other holes on the course, while light planes from nearby Moorabbin Airport dip and climb, throwing shadows on the fairways. Scott drops a long curler from well off the 9th green. Left to right, the ball falls in the side at precise speed.
Solid tee shots to the short 10th, a par 4 of exquisite design, and it’s wedge time. The wind is delivering a monologue out here and has its say with the short approaches. None are converted. Misty rain is falling, but it bothers no one; the show must go on for these locals starved of tournament golf.
With every hole, Scott’s iron play is more assured. On 11 he takes aim at a Cessna on final approach, and drops his ball softly on the green’s rear portion. But a good patch has dried up again; they’ve stalled on one under.
Ahead at 15, the Scottish pair have turned it around. They’ve rampaged through some of the toughest holes in the country to be 6 under for the day, and soon-to-be European Tour rookie Duncan Stewart makes it 7 with an uphill birdie that tracks beautifully. Earlier, he eagled the 8th and added birdies with Russell Knox to make amends for yesterday’s disappointment.
Turning for home, they both place 3-woods on the gentle rise of 17. Deftly punched irons with a following breeze find the green. No birdies, but they’re fairly bounding their way to the final tee. A clutch par from Knox keeps them in red figures for the tournament. Stewart’s caddie sensed their relaxed demeanour from the start, and says they made the most of the momentum.
Meanwhile, Scott and Leishman are maintaining their pace and running out of birdie holes. They choose 18 to make a point, Leishman’s approach perfect in view of the grandstands.
Tomorrow, they revert to foursomes once more. Some of the teams talk of holding position, while others warn against being too conservative in the alternate shot format, lest the habits creep into Sunday’s 4-ball. Whatever the approach, at least two nations feel they’re back in it.