Ryder Cup feel-good factor strong in Shanghai

10/25/2012 11:30:06 AM
Jose Maria Olazabal  (Getty Images)
Jose Maria Olazabal (Getty Images)

As Welshman Jamie Donaldson romped into a four shot lead thanks to a course record 62 during the first round of the BMW Masters at Lake Malaren, there were also fine performances from the men that triumphed so dramatically at Medinah Country Club four weeks ago – including the Spaniard that led them to such a glorious and memorable victory.

One month ago, José María Olazábal was preparing his 12 European charges for the 39th edition of The Ryder Cup in Chicago and the events that followed – most notably the thrilling, historic final day comeback – will live long in the memory.

And if this week represents a reunion for Olazábal and the 11 of his men who have travelled to China for the inaugural BMW Masters, then they can be well satisfied with their opening efforts.

Italy’s Francesco Molinari, whose half point against Tiger Woods in the Sunday singles at Medinah meant that Europe not only retained the coveted golden chalice but won it outright, fired a flawless six under par 66 on the lengthy Jack Nicklaus-designed Lake Malaren layout to sit in a tie for second with Peter Hanson.

“It was a good round; bogey free is always good,” said Molinari, who has won in China before when he captured the WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan in 2010. 

“I managed to get a few birdies here and there and generally played very well – I think I missed just one green. I’m happy with the game.”

Molinari also made reference to the positive impact that seeing his European team-mates again has had, as all of The Ryder Cup 12 barring Sergio Garcia have travelled to Shanghai this week.

He continued: “It's really good to see everyone and there are just big smiles everywhere and good memories.  I'm sure it's going to last for a while yet.”

After what he says has been a couple of “easy” weeks following the ‘Miracle of Medinah’, Hanson was also pleased to start well with a round that included eight birdies and two bogeys – and despite being thousands of miles from his native Scandinavia the Swede had reason to feel somewhat at home at Lake Malaren.

“We were lucky today. The conditions were perfect, not too much wind and a soft, soft golf course,” reflected Hanson.  “That makes the course play very long but if you control your approach shot with soft greens and as good as this course is condition wise, you will get a few chances.

“The owner must have paid a visit to the city of Sigtuna (in Sweden) and fell in love with the place as he has actually copied the city centre and built this golf course and named it after Lake Mälaren, which is approaching Bro Hof where we play the Scandinavian Masters.

“This and Bro Hof are probably the two longest golf courses in the world I would say, they are similar kind of design: generous fairways, tricky greens, all these humps and bumps, so it feels a bit similar when you play it.”

One shot further back following the opening exchanges in Shanghai is Olazábal, who also stayed bogey-free in his first round 67 and the Spaniard was clearly feeling inspired by Medinah.

“Well it gives you a push to be honest, yes,” Olazábal admitted. “It’s nice to see the boys play the way they did, to be in that kind of atmosphere, that's what we really work for.  So in a way it pushes you a little bit harder to work a little bit and to give yourself a better chance.
“But now the pressure of organising things and making decisions is off, it's fun time!

“It's great to shoot a low round.  I think that the driver was the weakest link, even though it was correct today.  The rest of the game was pretty sharp; I hit a lot of good iron shots into the greens today and gave myself quite a few birdie chances and made some of them.”

Despite suffering from a headache during his first round, World Number One Rory McIlroy, who won three out of a possible five points at Medinah, is alongside his former Captain in the early tie for fourth after a five under par 67 of his own and the Northern Irishman said he was re-focussed and ready to win again after a slightly underwhelming performance at the Turkish Airlines World Golf Finals two weeks ago.

“I basically took the week off in Turkey, I didn't touch a club until the day of the tournament so I wouldn't read too much into that,” said the two-time Major winning 23 year old.

“But I prepared well last week.  Did a lot of great work with Michael and just trying to bring what I worked on last week to here.

“It was relatively benign conditions out there, the course was there for the taking.  Obviously Jamie shot ten under – which is a phenomenal score – so I was just trying to keep somewhere within touching distance.”

McIlroy also took time to mention his Captain and the return to the inherently individualistic nature of golf after what was an incredible team effort in Illinois in late September.

“I noticed Ollie's name on the board which was nice to see,” he continued.  “A few weeks ago, 12 individuals came together as part of the team and now we're back playing on our own and trying to beat one another.

“It's been good to see the guys and talk about it a little bit more and hear what they have been up to for the couple of weeks since.  But now we are all trying to beat each other out there again.”

Justin Rose, who put together a grandstand finish to overcome Phil Mickelson in the singles at Medinah, and Martin Kaymer, whose putt on the 18th of the No. 3 Course retained the cup for Europe, also had excellent starts in Shanghai with four under par 68s leaving them in a tie for seventh following the first round, while a further shot back Nicolas Colsaerts, Paul Lawrie and Graeme McDowell are also well-placed with 54 holes to play.

Two under par rounds of 70 for Luke Donald, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood at Lake Malaren meant that all 11 Ryder Cup players in China – plus Captain Olazábal – are inside of the top 25 in Shanghai as the Ryder Cup feel-good factor continues to resonate strongly across the globe.