Australia set the pace in China

24/11/2011 08:44:55
Richard Green and Brendan Jones  (Getty Images)
Richard Green and Brendan Jones (Getty Images)
The Australian pairing of Brendan Jones and Richard Green carded a stunning 11 under par 61 in the opening round fourballs at the Omega Mission Hills World Cup to lead by two shots from Ireland and Scotland.

Four birdies on the way out put the duo from Down Under in a strong position, but it was on the back nine where the pyrotechnics took place with three further birdies and two eagles for an inward 29 at Mission Hills Resort on Hainan Island.

Ireland’s pre-tournament favourites Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell made a strong start with seven birdies and an eagle, while Martin Laird chipped in twice in the last three holes to move into a strong position alongside Stephen Gallacher.

“We combined very well today,” said Green, who eagled the par four 16th. “Brendan obviously started very well and built the momentum.

“In this game, it's just a matter of positioning yourself and giving the other guy an opportunity if you are slightly out of position and allowing them to be a little bit more aggressive.

“We did that well all day and it didn't matter what hole we were faced with - we just combined so well. It was a very, very good day.”

Jones, who finished third alongside Green in 2008, added: “It was a lot of fun. As Richard said, I made a few birdies to get the momentum started.  I made a good eagle on 12, and then Richard took over.

“But he's such an easy guy to play with, because he's in play all the time, and between us, there was always someone in the hole to give the other guy a chance.

“We just combined perfectly. We never doubled up on birdies, and that's the key in this game. You want to make a lot of birdies, but you don't want to make them on the same hole, and that's what we did.”

US Open Champions past and present McDowell and McIlroy could have gone even lower than their nine under round, but both missed putts from inside six feet at the 16th.

Despite that, the Northern Irishmen were pleased with their days work ahead of the more testing foursomes format on Friday.

“We set a target around eight to ten under par that we thought was going to be a good score out there, and we managed to shoot something around that,” said McIlroy.

“The fourballs this week are where you're going to make most of your birdies, and the foursomes is a more demanding format. Both players need to be on their games to shoot a low score.”

McDowell admits Friday’s session will be crucial to Ireland’s hopes as he and McIlroy look to better their runner-up finish two years ago by lifting the trophy.

“We are both playing solid,” he added. “Tomorrow is the most important format in this tournament. Tomorrow and Sunday are the big days, and Thursday and Saturday are the days where you can make up some ground.

“Tomorrow will separate the men from the boys a little bit and we are very happy the way we are playing, so excited about tomorrow's foursomes.”

Like the Australians, Scots Laird and Gallacher did most of their good work on the way in, Laird’s pitch hitting the pin and finding the cup for an eagle at the 16th before he splashed in from the bunker at the last for birdie.

“It was a great way to finish,” said Gallacher. “I was saying coming down 14, 15, we had done well and nothing had really went for us - if we could have a strong finish. With Martin's chip in at 16 and the bunker shot on the last, we have certainly done that.

“It's important to stay with the pace early on and see what happens at the weekend.”

Laird added: “That's what it's going to be like in fourballs because it frees everyone up. You have a partner sitting in the middle of the green and you are taking dead aim on your second shot.

“There's always going to be birdies and it's fun to play like that. You don't often get to play team events so it's fun when you have got that. Stephen hit the ball great today and I hit it pretty solid, too. We were always in each hole.”

Last week’s Iskandar Johor Open winner Joost Luiten continued his good form alongside Robert-Jan Derksen as the pair combined to give the Netherlands an eight under par 64, which was matched by Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland of the United States.