The United States face a two-pronged assault from the UK – in the shape of old foes England and Scotland – over the next two days, as the battle to claim the Omega Mission Hills World Cup gathers intensity in China.
Boo Weekley and his partner, Heath Slocum, fired a three under par 69 in the foursomes session over the Olazábal course at Mission Hills to add to their fourball score of 61 on Thursday for a 14 under par total of 130.
The Americans lead at the halfway stage by one shot from their third round playing partners, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose of England, with Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie and Marc Warren also lying in joint second place on 131, 13 under par. South African are fourth on 132.
Weekley and Slocum carded five birdies and two bogeys in their 69 while Poulter and Rose looked set for an immaculate bogey-free foursomes round before Poulter charged his first putt past the hole at the 17th and Rose missed the return.
Despite that solitary glitch, a 68 represented a fine day’s work by the England pair, who left the course thoroughly convinced that they have what it takes to lift the title on Sunday night. The formula means that the 28 nations return to fourballs in the third round with the trickier proposition of foursomes rounding off the event on Sunday.
The English pair were five under par through ten holes but were unable to kick on and Poulter commented: “It was a bit of a shame after getting off to such a flying start. The bogey on the 17th was disappointing but we can go into Sunday happy with how we gelled in the foursomes.”
Rose added: “At one point in the round we were threatening to beat our fourball score of 63 but the back nine came down to missed opportunities on the par fives. We didn’t manage to get the ball up and down at the ninth, 11th and 15th and that was probably the key to the round.”
Last year’s runners-up, Scotland, are back in the hunt with a vengeance once more after matching England’s 68. Montgomerie and Warren now have the opportunity to avenge their play-off defeat by Germany in Barbados.
Montgomerie, who would love the Omega Mission Hills World Cup title on his illustrious CV, remarked: “We would have taken 68 at the start of the day. You need to put the ball in the fairway in foursomes and Marc and I did that. We’re right in contention.”
However, the pace continues to be set by Team USA, with Weekley and Slocum ‘ham and egging’ it extremely well in an unfamiliar format. Slocum said: “This is a hard format to play and to keep your rhythm so I think we did a good job. We would have loved to go out and shoot something really nice but at the same time we started the day ahead and finished it ahead. We’re looking forward to the weekend.”
Weekley, a rookie international traveller, has kept the media entertained this week on his first visit to China and he didn’t disappoint after the second round 69, revealing that his dinner menu had consisted of ‘Ribeye steak and French fries’ rather than any local delicacy.
He added: “It’d like to go and see the Great Wall and see what the place has to offer. Where I live it’s a bunch of nednecks and then you go north and you got the Yankees. It’s certainly different here!”
Three European countries, Italy, Denmark and Germany, are all tied for fifth at the halfway stage. The Italian brothers, Francesco and Edoardo Molinari, matched the 68s of England and Scotland as did the unrelated Hansens from Denmark, Anders and Søren. Germany, the defending champions, are also on 11 under par, three off the lead, after Alex Cejka and Martin Kaymer shot a one under par 71.