By Chris Vogt
The rain held off, the wind freshened, and the Metropolitan Golf Club basked in sunshine on the first day of its World Cup staging.
The strong teams lived up to reputation on a day of solid shot-making, but some lesser lights staked their claim. And then there were players simply embracing the event, the opportunity.
A crisp and damp morning greeted spectators and the first players. Metro’s stunning course soaked up all that nature threw at it last night, and lay in wait for Malaysia and Zimbabwe to open the tournament.
For the young Africans, this a big deal. Both have family here and have their fathers on bag duty. Said the younger Ben Follett-Smith, “Dad was on my bag last time I won (as an amateur), so it’s great to have him carrying again.”
The vibrant colours of Zimbabwe’s local fans stood out among the small crowd. There’s a girlfriend, a sister, godparents, the lot. Follett-Smith’s godmother has flown in from Singapore to realise a dream: watching the young man play in a PGA event.
“I remember him as a toddler, waving a plastic club round the house, and telling us he’ll be a golfer one day. Our retirement plan is to hire an RV and follow him round the PGA Tour.”
Follett-Smith’s partner Scott Vincent was the first to taste Metro’s formidable bunkering. But a team par and they were away. Standing on 11 they’d found a birdie and a bogey to interrupt a string of pars. Meanwhile, playing partners Malaysia stepped on it. Gavin Green is a star in the making, and together they got it to 6 under. They’d stretch it to 8 before closing back at minus 6. Zimbabwe’s pair finished even, but will be better for the experience. They’re looking forward to tomorrow’s foursomes, too.
“We just didn’t play well”, Follett-Smith said on the practice range afterwards. “Scott had no birdies, which is unusual for him. But we’ve played a lot of golf together, I think we’ll combine well.” But before that, there’ll be dinner with family. “It beats room service, that’s for sure.”
Late morning, Australians Mark Leishman and Cam Smith set off, with the US team for company. A steady start preceded an eagle 3 from Smith after a precise approach at the long 4th. An outward 30 was matched by the Americans. An unexceptional back nine would see Kucher and Stanley in at 6 under.
Denmark opened its title defence with a birdie at the first, and seemed to cruise round the front nine. A late bogey was all that kept it from the clubhouse lead.
A gallery large enough to create some semblance of atmosphere swirled around the Australian pair as it piled on. Another dart of an iron from Smith on the 18th provided a last birdie and co-leadership with an Ian Poulter-led England and a surprising Korea. The rain never came, the course stood up, and foursomes awaits the players.
The Zimbabweans will open Day Two at 10.35, with Australia in the second-last group at 12:35pm.