Argentina, represented by European Tour players Eduardo Romero and Angel Cabrera, survived the intense pressure of carrying home hopes on their shoulders – and the extra burden of partnering Tiger Woods and David Duval – to share the first round lead in the EMC² World Cup at Buenos Aires Golf Club.
Romero, winner of the European Masters three months ago, and his close friend Cabrera, fired a stunning 15 under par score of 57 under the four ball, better ball format to match the score set by New Zealand’s Greg Turner and Frank Nobilo.
The Argentine and New Zealand teams are one ahead of Australia, represented by Peter O’Malley and Lucas Parsons, who had nine birdies and three eagles on their card but spoiled an otherwise blemish-free round by bogeying the last.
New Zealand, who have never won the event, set the pace with their 57 just a few moments after Australia had carded a 58. For Nobilo, it was a refreshing change from last week when he went to the US Tour Qualifying School and secured the card which earned his playing rights in 2001.
“This is totally different” he said. “Last week was a necessary evil. I don’t think you can compare the two events. This was something to look forward to.”
Massive crowds swarmed over Buenos Aires golf course to catch a glimpse of Woods and the local heroes, who were cheered and applauded every where they went. And the locals were rewarded by some scintillating golf from their home favourites, who birdied the first six holes on their way to shooting 57.
Romero, the senior partner in the team, admitted: “We are very confident in our game. We are both very connected. We have been saying this for some days now. Some journalists asked why we were so confident, as if they were scared of our words. But we are playing well so that’s why we said it and will keep saying the same thing.
“We knew that we had to play against the United States at some point. Everybody feels pressure when you get to play with Tiger but the difference lies in the fact that we knew how to handle the pressure.”
The United States “dream team” of Woods and Duval took time to catch fire, but they eventually did just that and Duval holed a huge putt on the 18th to nudge the defending champions into a share of fifth place on 61 alongside Canada and the Republic of Korea.
Duval said: “It was an exciting day. The crowds were huge and I think the people did an excellent job helping us get around the golf course. We didn’t play as well as we would have cared to, but at least we stayed close and so we have a chance.”
Woods insisted he was the passenger on Day One and commented: “I didn’t really hit the ball as good as I would have liked but I hit a lot of good putts which just didn’t go in. There wasn’t so much pressure from the public, just a lot of noise. Obviously with their home team playing with us they were going to be rooting for them, and rightly so.”
Zimbabwe’s Mark McNulty and Tony Johnstone produced a storming finish with eight straight birdies to finish on 62, ten under par, along with France (Jean Van de Velde, Thomas Levet) and Germany (Alex Cejka and Thomas Gogele).
Spain’s Miguel Angel Jiménez and José Maria Olazábal finished strongly for a 63, one ahead of Sweden’s Pierre Fulke and Mathias Grönberg, Scotland (Paul Lawrie and Gary Orr) and Ireland’s Paul McGinley and Padraig Harrington. Lawrie and Orr were seven under after ten holes but missed several chances coming home and the 1999 Open champion said: “We didn’t make many putts. It was very frustrating.”
Jamie Spence and Brian Davis of England suffered the nightmare of a double bogey at the second hole but rallied well to play the next 16 holes in eight under par for a 66, two better than Phillip Price and Ian Woosnam of Wales.