An inspired England team, energised by a run of nine birdies in 12 holes, drew five strokes clear of the field at the halfway stage of the World Golf Championships - World Cup at Real Club de Golf de Sevilla in Spain. After two rounds of fourballs and foursomes, Paul Casey and Luke Donald are on 125, 19 under par.
Despite a solitary bogey at the last hole after Casey’s awkward chip left Donald with too much work to make par, the English pairing displayed an air of calm assurance as they fired an eight under par round of 64 in the traditionally tough foursomes format.
At 19 under par, the England team lead by five from joint first round leaders, Austria, who signed for a round of 70 despite emulating the English by spilling a shot at the final hole.
Ireland, who shared the first round lead with Austria, are one of six team sharing third place on 131, 13 under par, after running up a nasty double bogey seven at the 16th – a hole on which most teams managed to pick up a shot. Also on that mark are Japan, Sweden, defending champions South Africa, hosts Spain and the United States. With another session of fourballs and foursomes remaining, the event is still very much in the melting pot.
Donald and Casey, experienced foursomes partners from the Walker Cup at Nairn in Scotland five years ago and both Ryder Cup rookies at Oakland Hills recently, dove-tailed quite superbly in perfect golfing conditions in Seville.
“It was very enjoyable” observed Donald, adding: “Obviously a 5-3-5 finish was not what we wanted but I think in foursomes you are going to make some mistakes. It was disappointing to finish with a bogey because it’s going to leave a little bit of a sour taste in our mouths. But other than that, we played very well.
“I think it was a good plan for me to take the odd holes and Paul to take the evens. It meant I was hitting a lot of iron shots and Paul was hitting a lot of putts. Right now my iron play is very strong and Paul’s putting is very strong, so it worked out well.”
Casey chimed in: “I thought it worked out brilliantly. I guess I did make a lot of the birdie putts but he made three very, very crucial par saves as well which kept our momentum going. Our strategy was correct. As simple as that.”
The Austrian team of Markus Brier and Martin Wiegele cannot boast impressive CVs such as those possessed by Casey and Donald, but after sharing the first round lead they did superbly to stay in touch with the inspired English.
Now they go out last in the fourballs along with England – their partners in the first round on Thursday. Wiegele, currently ranked 533rd in the world, admitted: “It’s an honour to play with England in the last group on a Saturday. We played with them in the first round and they are both great players and we have to try and jump on the same ship again and stay with them tomorrow.”
Brier added: “It’s great to play with them as we all aspire to get to that level – top 50 in the world and Ryder Cup level. It’s the goal of everybody playing out here. We all want to improve and get into these big events and our game ha to improve a little bit each year to get there.”
Spain’s Sergio Garcia and Miguel Angel Jiménez shot a 68, despite a dropped shot at the 17th, to stay in contention and Garcia was in admiration of England’s efforts.
He said: “We’re quite impressed with the scoring – more than anything with England’s score. It was amazing, outrageous! But we’re still there. I think we need to have a good weekend and tomorrow will be very important.”
Trevor Immelman and Rory Sabbatini, defending the title they won in South Africa’s name at Kiawah Island in the United States last year, forced themselves back into the picture with a round of 65, second only to England’s among the top scores of the day.
Assisted by an eagle at the ninth, with Immelman holing from 40 feet, and a birdie at the tenth, the South African pairing made strong headway in a format where par usually represents a good score.
“We’re right back in it” said Sabbatini. “If we can take what we did today in Sunday’s foursomes and put ourselves in good position tomorrow then I think we’ve got a very good chance.”
Ireland’s Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley looked like being England’s closest challengers, but that double bogey at the 16th put paid to that plan. McGinley, however, was not too downcast.
He said: “We’ve just got to hang in there and keep battling. We’re not a million miles away from the leaders. I see Paul Casey was doing most of the putting for England and when Paul gets hot with the putter he’s really hot. It just wasn’t our day but there is a lot of golf left to be played yet.”