Scotland, Sweden and Canada were locked in a three-way tie at the top of the leaderboard after the first round of the World Golf Championships-EMC2 World Cup at The Taiheiyo Club, Gotemba, Japan.
Andrew Oldcorn’s loss was Dean Robertson’s gain as the Scottish replacement for the injured Volvo PGA champion gathered seven birdies in the fourball better-ball format to help his country set the early pace in the foothills of Mount Fuji with a ten under par 62.
Robertson accepted the opportunity to play after Oldcorn withdrew with a back problem and the two good friends dove-tailed well as they carded matching halves of 31, their only disappointment coming at the last when Robertson missed a six foot eagle putt which would have secured the outright lead.
However Robert Karlsson of the Swedish team, playing alongside the Scots, took his own eagle chance from 20 feet – his second eagle of the day – to move to ten under par, where the two European sides were later joined by Canada, Mike Weir and Ian Leggatt storming home in 29.
Coltart, though, had mainly a supporting role as his team-mate went to work. Robertson birdied all four par fives and his second shot to the 18th – a five wood from out of a divot scrape – almost produced an eagle.
He said: “I mis-hit the putt. It would have been a lovely way to finish a lovely day, but unfortunately it wasn’t. Even so I was pleased with the par fives. I hit two of them in two shots and made birdies and on the other two I wedged to about a foot.
“However we are under no illusions about tomorrow with the foursomes. That’s something new to me and I look forward to it, but I think it’s important to play well and no make too many errors. At the moment, I would say my ball striking is no better than 50 or 60 per cent but my scoring ability is 110 per cent.”
Coltart added: “I think foursomes is a completely different game from the individual one. It’s just important not to make erratic decisions and to play sensibly. It’s competely the opposite of today’s format. You have to be a lot more conservative.”
Karlsson’s pair of eagles sent the Swedes soaring to the top and he received a hearty vote of thanks from his partner, Niclas Fasth, who commented: “Robert really carried us round on the front nine and with his spectacular eagles at the sixth and 18th. That was great because it’s always good to finish off well.”
Canada then became the third co-leader thanks to that electrifying back nine of 29, with Leggatt contributing four of seven birdies.
Spain’s Sergio Garcia complained about a “cold putter” on the front nine as he and Miguel Angel Jiménez didn’t take advantage of several birdie opportunities. However the younger member of the partnership caught fire late on and birdied the last four holes with a flourish to help his team move into a tie for fourth place on 63 with New Zealand’s Michael Campbell and David Smail.
Ireland, represented by new Volvo Masters Andalucia champion Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley, made a solid start to their bid to win the title under its new format to add to the one they picked up at Kiawah Island in 1997, shooting an eight under par 64.
McGinley finished off a satisfactory day with a superb shot at the last. His second to the par five hole finished off the green on a severe downslope behind a lady’s handbag. From there he produced a remarkable chip to six feet and holed the putt.
“We didn’t exactly set the course on fire” admitted the man beaten into second place by his team-mate on Sunday. “But at least we are not too far off the pace.”
Ian Poulter conjured up the shot of the day as England finished tied for ninth place with Denmark on 65. The Moroccan Open champion drilled a three wood second shot 241 yards from the rough onto the green and the ball rolled up just six inches right of the hole.
“I pushed it” laughed Poulter, who had the Japanese crowds yelling with delight as he bent down and lined up his tiny tap-in for an eagle three. He said: “It was a fantastic shot and helped move us up the field.”
Wales, out in 30, looked in position to threaten the leaders, but Phillip Price and Mark Mouland were able to conjure up just one more birdie between them and made the mistake of bogeying the 14th in a round of 66 for a share of 11th place alongside defending champions, David Duval and Tiger Woods of the United States.