England, Sweden and Wales lie in a three-way tie for the lead at the halfway stage of World Golf Championships – Algarve World Cup in Portugal but it was Argentina who stole the show with a record 11 under par 61 in the foursomes.
The 11 under par score over the Arnold Palmer-designed course at Victoria Clube de Golfe in Vilamoura was the lowest foursomes score in the history of the World Cup and hauled Angel Cabrera and Ricardo Gonzalez from joint last to within a stroke of the lead at 15 under par.
The fact that their foursomes score was six shots better than any other team underlined breathtaking quality of their round. Few could have predicted such a score after they struggled to a four under par 68 in the opening fourballs but, playing in the first group, they pieced together an extraordinary round of nine birdies and an eagle to charge into contention.
“We’re very happy, mainly because we have just beaten a record,” said Gonzalez. “I feel very proud that Argentina has broken another record in the World Cup.”
In 2000, Cabrera teamed up with Eduardo Romero to set the record of 57 in the fourballs, while today’s 61 beats the previous lowest foursomes score of 62 set by Fiji in 2002.
“Before we teed off I said to Ricardo we had to play well. I knew we could do very well in the foursomes,” added Cabrera, who has his 14 year old son Angel Jnr, a five handicapper, caddieing for him. “I knew we have a chance of getting closer to the leaders but never thought we could get that close.”
When the England team, who shot 59 in the opening fourballs, were asked how good that 61 really was, there was no hesitation from David Howell as he said: “That’s a miraculous round and certainly outdoes our 59 for sure.”
Luke Donald and Howell were always going to struggle to repeat the birdie-fest of the opening day and reached the turn in one over par 37. But they dug deep and, after pulling one shot back at the 12th, their patience paid off as they birdied the last three holes for a three under par 69 to join Wales and Sweden at the top of the leaderboard.
“It had been a struggle all day ling really, right from the word go, and it was going as badly for us as it could in foursomes,” said Howell. “We stuck in there and knew, although we were struggling we were never far behind. It was a case of hanging in there and finishing as strong as we could and to get back into the joint lead is a bonus.”
Wales also staged a grandstand finish with four birdies in the last four holes for a five under par 67 to lie on 16 under par 128 as they look to win the title for the first time since 1987. Like England, Dodd and Dredge struggled to find their rhythm over the front nine but forced their way back with some stunning golf coming home.
“We knew we had a few chances coming in and just stayed patient and had a great finish,” said Dredge. “We were rewarded for our patience.”
Sweden also posted a five under par 67 to lie on 16 under par after a steady round where Henrik Stenson and Niclas Fasth kept mistakes to a minimum. Three birdies in the last five holes ensured they would be out in the final group on Saturday.
“We didn’t play that fantastic but kept it fairly simple, kept the ball in play and gave ourselves a couple of chances,” said Stenson.
The Netherlands also edged their way up the leaderboard with a five under par 67 to lie on 14 under par heading into the second fourball series.