By Chris Vogt
A bleak morning cleared to reveal the splendour of Metropolitan’s course, and drew large crowds to an enthralling final round at the World Cup.
Half a dozen contending teams set about chasing clear leader Belgium, with birdies aplenty from the first hole. Australia’s Mark Leishman and Cameron Smith have combined well and remained upbeat throughout a testing week. The pair was on the front foot early today, an aggressive front nine yielding 4 birdies. It was the ideal launching pad for the final title assault. Likewise the defending Danes, who put Friday’s troubles well behind them. They wouldn’t concede their World Cup title easily.
Mexico continued to push, Abraham Ancer enjoying a wonderful two weeks in this country. He rolled the ball beautifully all day, making sure his country threatened the leaders. Italy, Korea and surprise packet Canada piled on the birdies too, all in pursuit of the faultless Belgians.
Australia’s run home came to life on 13. Cam Smith buried his putt for a sixth birdie and outright second, the gallery enjoying the moment and sensing more. A dropped shot from Belgium shortly after left the door open. Then Smith upped the ante, holing his bunker shot at the next. The crowd noise which followed lifted both Australians.
“That gave me a real buzz”, Smith recalled later. “I thought we were a chance, then.”
A short-lived one, as it turned out. The steely Belgians made a birdie of their own at 14 to restore the cushion. A monster drive from Leishman at 16 left Smith with a wedge. He put it to a metre, but the putt stayed out.
“It was a pretty bad putt actually. Pushed it a little bit”, Leishman lamented. “That’s one I’d like to have again.”
Pedestrian pars on the closing holes dashed their title shot, an equal-low round of the day not enough. But the pair admitted to a great week.
“I’ve never played to crowds like that in Australia,” Leishman said. “Having 98% of the crowd going for you is a pretty cool feeling.” On the comeback: “We fought it out on Friday.” And, thinking ahead to next year’s Presidents Cup, “I think the way we handled Friday would be probably more impressive to Ernie (Els, International team captain for the 2019 event) than today.“
Smith concurred. “We showed we could do it as a team, and hopefully that’s something Ernie remembers.” Both players head to next week’s PGA full of confidence, this time as competitors.
With 3 to play, Mexico did what the Australians couldn’t, making birdies at 16 and 17. A par at the last left them tied second with the host team. Abraham Ancer is a star in the making, and will be proud of his fortnight’s work. Denmark’s spirited Cup defence left them in a tie for fourth.
The Belgians Pieters and Detry have played golf together since age 9. Their foursomes play this week seemed the culmination of all they’ve shared since those early days. The exclamation point came as another dart was fired, this time at 18, and the putt drained for a 3-shot win. Both Belgians answer to Thomas, and now have that name, and their country on the World Cup.