World Cup of Golf Day 2: Surprise leaders as weather lashes players, course … and hardy fans

 

By Chris Vogt

The weather crew got it right this time. Thursday’s dire forecast never materialised. Instead, they copied and pasted it to the second round of the World Cup. But the show goes on, and Friday morning’s players hit off as scheduled.

The tented village looked a little sorry after last evening’s typhoon, yet a healthy number of Melbourne’s hardiest turned up for their annual dose of tournament golf. Colourful national flags were at full stretch atop their poles. Lower down, umbrellas threatened to launch in the gale, having yielded to the horizontal rain. And somewhere amongst it all was the pair from Zimbabwe, on the 1st tee and ready to make amends for a round that never left first gear.

Foursomes just doesn’t get the exposure it deserves. The format has all but disappeared from club competition in Australia, and Americans loathe it. Yet at hundreds of clubs in the UK it’s the only game played. Our obsession with scoring, maintaining a handicap, ‘card and pencil golf’, has rendered the alternate shot game a quaint relic. More’s the pity, for there is much fun to be had out there when combining with a partner over the same ball.

Today’s foursomes was played as stroke play. While not as pure as match play, it still required a thoughtful pair of heads. The early running was made by Mexico, with last week’s Australian Open champ Abraham Ancer in the groove. Ahead, both Germany and the Netherlands fell away badly after 9.

The leading groups got going a little after 12:30, with no easing of the miserable conditions. What was a three-way tie became a jam of six teams, all hanging on for dear life, with Italy somehow enjoying the wind, the rain and the cold to sit atop the board. At the other end, Denmark’s title defence was in trouble, five over after 3 soggy holes.

The Australians faltered on hole 4, the island of rough in its greenside bunker proving too much for Leishman. Down the way a little, Scotland’s Russell Knox was flighting low irons into the greens just like home, and the pair from sun-drenched Mexico moved within a shot of the lead after 11. The Belgians, unperturbed by the troubles of partners Denmark, made their run with some precise wet weather play.

Meanwhile, team England dished out a bit of everything. Ian Poulter, who saves his best for national duty, seemed to relish the gloom. The decorated Ryder Cup star loves a scrap, the drama, being in the thick of it. His compatriot Tyrrell Hatton showed improved composure for stretches. There were stumbles on the inward half, but they remain in the mix.

Hard to imagine, but the weather turned for the worse. Yet Korea held firm as the temperature dropped, An and Kim immovable in the gusty wind. They share the lead with Belgium heading into the weekend. Australia stayed in touch after an eventful round, and with India and Italy emerging as factors at the close of a torrid day, there’s much to look forward to.

For all the rain, Metropolitan’s outstanding course remained a fair test. There were birdies for the patient, and dropped shots for those with minds elsewhere. Wild breezes are part of golf and, after all, these are professionals. Saturday it’s back to four ball, larger galleries, and making a charge. What Mother Nature serves up is anyone’s guess.

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Round 3 tees off Saturday from 8.30am with the Australian team at 10.45am

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