Ireland join Australia in World Cup lead

11/25/2011 8:25:35 AM
Rory McIlroy (L) and Graeme McDowell   (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy (L) and Graeme McDowell (Getty Images)

A four under par 68 helped Irish pairing Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy catch Australians Richard Green and Brendan Jones as the two nations claimed the halfway lead at the Omega Mission Hills World Cup after an enthralling second round.

Australia were two clear overnight after a blistering 61 in the fourballs, but had to scrap hard for a 70 in the more demanding foursomes format.

Having birdied the second and bogeyed the fourth, the duo from Down Under had a slice of good fortune when Green chipped in from a bunker at the fifth, turning a likely bogey into a birdie in the process.

At the sixth, however, Jones sent a brilliant second shot to 15 feet and left-hander Green sunk the eagle putt.

The three-time European Tour winner holed from a similar distance at the 13th but two bogeys over the closing stretch left the event wide open.

“The important thing for us is that we are still at the top and everybody is chasing us,” said Jones. “We can't win the tournament today, but we sure could have fallen back in the field.

“So just to be in the position we're in, we've got to take the positives out of that, and I think tomorrow we'll get some rhythm back and play a more attacking game.

“It's all about limiting your errors in this game, and I think we pretty much did that. A couple of times we slipped up, but that's just the way it is.”

Green added: “We spoke about our strategy last night, and in foursomes especially we decided that anything under par is going to do all right. So a 70 today achieved that goal I guess.

“It was a little bit of a shame to finish with a bogey, but it's a very difficult finish to this golf course and a very demanding hole, the 18th. Hopefully we can work that out for the weekend and not do that on Sunday.”

It was Ireland’s past and present US Open Champions who took advantage, the pair responding to three-putt bogeys on the 11th and 13th with six birdies, the last of which came at the driveable 16th when McDowell splashed out of a bunker to two feet.

“I think both of us are very pleased about the score that we ended up shooting today,” said World Number Two McIlroy. “I think anything in the 60s in the foursomes format is a very reasonable score out there.

“There is still a lot of golf to be played this week, so it will be nice to get out there tomorrow again and enjoy the fourballs, and be aggressive and make a few more birdies. I think we are very pleased with how today went and we’re looking forward to the weekend.”

Ireland started the week as the bookies’ favourites, and 32 year old McDowell insists there is more to come over the weekend.

“Alternate shot is a very difficult format,” he said. “We struggled to find our rhythm a little bit on the front nine. Rory really putted well today, which kept things together.

“I've struggled a little bit on the greens the last couple of days, but I was happy with the way I swung the club in general today again and Rory is playing lovely.

“We’re looking forward to getting back out there into better-balls tomorrow where we can both play a little bit more aggressively and get in our rhythm better. But we’re very, very happy with that performance today. Four under par in this format is a pretty good effort.”

Only six shots separate the top 20 teams, with Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher and Martin Laird in third on 12 under - Laird’s missed five foot par putt at the last producing their only bogey and denying them a share of the lead.

Spain, New Zealand and the United States are fourth on ten under, Alvaro Quiros and Miguel Angel Jiménez combining for a bogey-free 69 which included an eagle at the 16th after big-hitting Quiros drove to within 20 feet.

England, The Netherlands and surprise package Mexico are nine under, with hosts China among a group of nine teams one further back.