Spain opened up a four-stroke lead at the halfway stage of the Omega Mission Hills World Cup in China after a breathtaking foursomes display took them clear of the field.
Miguel Angel Jiménez and Pablo Larrazabal combined brilliantly in the alternate-shot format for the second round, playing the first 11 holes in a staggering nine under par thanks to seven birdies and an eagle. Their only mistake came at the 15th, when they dropped a shot, but they birdied the next for a nine under par 63 and a 17 under par total of 127.
That lifted them four clear of first round leaders Germany, after Martin Kaymer and Alex Cejka posted a 69, and Australia, whose team of Richard Green and Brendan Jones, shot a 68 to also lie on 17 under par.
Pre-tournament favourites Sweden finished a shot further back on 12 under par with the United States and Ireland on 11 under at the halfway stage. The host nation of China, however, never got going and carded a 75 to lie well down the field and facing an uphill task to improve on their performance of last year.
Spain’s round was simply inspired and with seven holes to play the record low of 61, by Argentina in 2005, looked in danger.
Jiménez said: “We complemented very well today on the golf course and we had started with par on the first hole, then birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie; after five holes we are well under par. We really enjoyed the moment and keep playing very well, and make more birdies on the next par fives, on the seventh, ninth and 11th, and, well, that is the way.
“I thought at one moment that maybe we can break 60, the way we started. But when those kind of thoughts come at the wrong moment, we stopped the machine.”
Larrazabal, clearly enjoyed the experience of playing in his first Omega Mission Hills World Cup alongside Jiménez, said: Two more days to go; we need to work to keep the machine two more days. That's a great round for foursomes. Tomorrow will be another day.”
Spain are looking for their fifth World Cup title to move into second place in the list of all-time winners, and are in prime position with both players enjoying the camaraderie. Jiménez is playing for the 12th time, and looking for his first win after seven top tens, while Larrazabal, the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year, has carried his form from last week where he finished a shot outside the play-off in fourth place.
Australia were hanging on to the tails of Spain with four birdies over their front nine of 32. While they dropped a shot on the 12th, they hit back with two birdies and looked on course to lie second on their own until they bogeyed the tough finishing hole of the Olazábal Course for a round of 68 and 13 under par total of 131.
Green said: “Foursomes is not the easiest game to play. Both Brendan and I put a pretty good score on the board, considering it's a difficult game. I think if you can do that, in this format, you're a pretty strong team. So I like our prospects for the weekend and hopefully continue our form from the fourball and regroup for the foursomes again on Sunday.”
Jones was equally pleased with their performance. “It is a very tough format. It's hard to keep your momentum in this game.”
As for the prospect of chasing down the leaders Spain over the weekend, Green said: “The last time I played the World Cup in 1998, I can remember there was a lot of fluctuation with this format. We might be four behind Spain, but with this format, anything can happen and it's not that far away. I'm looking forward to tomorrow and getting back into a rhythm again. I think we'll do well.”
Germany did very little wrong as Kaymer and Cejka gelled together in the foursomes for a 69 to match Australia’s 36 hole total of 13 under par and remain well in the hunt for a second title in three years following Germany’s success in Barbados when Bernhard Langer and Martin Siem won the title.
Kaymer said: “It was a real work day, as we struggled on the first nine, but on the back nine, we made a few birdies which put us I think in a good position for the weekend. We are tied second now, but Spain obviously had a huge day.”
Cejka added: “We were just trying to survive and not to lose too much ground. We had a couple bogeys that really hurts. But we were fighting to the end. We made a couple good birdies coming in, and I think we can be pleased with a couple under today.”
Robert Karlsson and Henrik Stenson came in with a 67 to maintain their challenge as the pre-tournament favourites on 12 under par 132 and five off the lead while the United States forced their way back into contention with four birdies to finish at 11 under par alongside Ireland.
The Omega Mission Hills World Cup reverts back to fourballs for the third round before concluding with foursomes on the final day.