Robert Karlsson and Henrik Stenson produced a magnificent three-stroke victory for Sweden at the Omega Mission Hills World Cup after shooting a nine-under-par 63 in the final round foursomes.
Four shots off the lead at the start of the day, the Swedes charged up the leaderboard with a stunning front nine of 31 in the alternate shot format to draw level with Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez and Pablo Larrazabal before racing home for Sweden’s second World Cup triumph, with four more birdies giving them a winning total of 27 under par 261.
The Spaniards settled for second place after a 70 while joint overnight leaders Australia, represented by Brendan Jones and Richard Green, finished equal third with Japan after slipping back with a 76.
Ryuji Imada and Toru Taniguchi were Asia’s best finishers for Japan, a 68 putting them alongside Australia at the conclusion of the US$5.5 million Omega Mission Hills World Cup.
Sweden’s only victory in the World Cup was recorded in 1991 through Per-Ulrik Johansson and Anders Forsbrand but Karlsson, ranked sixth in the world, and the 12th ranked Stenson lived up to their top billing at Mission Hills by saving their best for last.
“It means a great deal win for the country,” said Karlsson. “This has always been an event in Sweden that's been big. It’s quite a new country for golf, and to play for your country is great. I just hope this tournament can keep getting better by the years.
“If you look on the trophy, there's many impressive pairings on there. I hope we can look back on it in the future and say the same about us playing here.”
Stenson added: “It’s a great honour to play for your country, and obviously even better when you win. So we have had a fantastic week. Sweden only won it once before in 1991. So it was about time that we changed that and got our name up there again, and I hope we can continue.”
The victory continues an incredible year for Swedish golf and for Karlsson in particular, who a few weeks ago became the first Swede to finish European Tour Number One. He said they knew that a low round in the more challenging foursomes format was always on the cards after Spain produced a 63 on Friday.
“We thought it might be our turn today. We knew we needed to play better than yesterday. It was important for us to pick up a few shots early which we did,” said Karlsson, who was making his third World Cup appearance but partnering Stenson for the first time.
Unlike Friday’s session where Spain produced the day’s best, Jimenez and Larrazabal failed to fire on all cylinders in the final round, turning in 35 before shooting two more birdies against a lone bogey at the closing hole.
Jimenez said: “We didn't hole the putts today, and I missed the fairway on the par fives and we needed to make birdies on the par fives. That's the game. We just didn't make under par and didn't win.”
Larrazabal, the 2008 Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year in Europe, said: “We didn't play like the first and second rounds, but still it was a good performance and a great tournament for us. But you know, I wanted so badly to go home with the trophy, and I'm a little bit sad now.”
The Australians stayed in the title hunt after making the turn in even par with two birdies against as many bogeys but another dropped shot on the 12th hole left them with an uphill task. Three closing bogeys saw them drop into a share of third place with Japan.
“Just didn't happen for us today,” said Green. “We went out there with all of the right intentions and give it as good of a shot and tried our best and things didn't happen. We didn't have too many opportunities, unfortunately. It was just a bit of a struggle most of the day.”
Imada, who won once on the US PGA Tour this year, holed out from the bunker for an eagle on the 15th hole as Japan enjoyed a strong finish. “He (Taniguchi) made a birdie putt on 14, and I got a little bit lucky and holed out a bunker shot on 15. We made a good save on 17 and a solid par on 18. It was a great finish. We played really well for foursomes, but I think we let a few get away in the four ball,” he said.
China’s Zhang Lian-wei and Liang Wen-chong shot a 72 for a 280 total and settled for a share of 17th place with India.