Saturday's golf: Belgium takes control at World Cup of Golf
Melbourne, Australia — A pair of twenty-somethings named Thomas has Belgium on the cusp of its first victory in the World Cup of Golf.
Thomas Pieters and Thomas Detry had a mid-round stretch of 5-under-par in four holes for a 9-under 63 Saturday to give Belgium a five-stroke lead after three rounds.
Pieters, 26, and the 25-year-old Detry, who both play on the European Tour, started the day level with South Korea after a steady 71 in terrible rainy conditions in the foursomes (alternate shot) format of Friday.
On Saturday, they took advantage — along with the 27 other teams — of much improved weather conditions at Metropolitan and the fourballs (best-ball) game.
Belgium, which completed the front nine with two birdies and an eagle, then birdied the 10th, had a three-round total of 19-under 197.
“We combined pretty well in the first foursomes, hopefully we can do the same on Sunday,” said Pieters.
Detry added: “We were making some good putts. And it’s always nice when you know your partner’s playing some great golf, it gives you a lot of confidence.”
Three teams were tied for second — Mexico, Italy and South Korea.
Mexico’s Abraham Ancer, who won last week’s Australian Open, and his partner Roberto Diaz, shot 65. Italy’s Andrea Pavan and Renato Paratore dropped two shots on the par-5 14th when both players had balls run back down off the green from slopes just off the putting surface, but recovered for a 66.
“It was tough, but Renato did great and we bounced back,” Pavan said.
South Korea’s Byeong Hun An and Si Woo Kim shot 68.
“We struggled all day today,” said An. “But we had a birdie on 18 so tomorrow we just need to keep the momentum going.”
Three teams were tied for fifth — Sweden, Australia and England, six behind Belgium.
Sweden’s Alexander Bjork and Joakim Lagergren shot 64 and Australia’s Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith 65.
Bjork said he and Lagergren combined well to shoot one of the best rounds of the day.
“When I was off, Joakim was on, and when he was off, I was on,” Bjork said.
Leishman and Smith let an opportunity slip on the back nine. They shot 6-under 30 on the front nine — four birdies and an eagle — but had six pars to start the front nine before a birdie on 16.
“Probably a story of two different nines,” Leishman said. “Got off to a great start obviously but cooled off a bit on the back nine.”
England’s team of Tyrrell Hatton and Ian Poulter shot 67.
Americans Matt Kuchar and Kyle Stanley, who were one of the weather casualties on Friday with a 79, improved to a 66 Saturday but were 14 strokes off the lead and in 21st place.
Aaron Rai shot a 2-under 68 in the third round to extend his lead from four to six strokes at the Hong Kong Open.
The 23-year-old Englishman is on 16-under 194 after four birdies and two bogeys. Rai — who wears gloves on both hands while playing — shot a course-record 61 at Hong Kong Golf Club on Friday.
“Nothing is ever done until it’s done and 18 holes is a lot of golf, a six-shot lead, a 10-shot lead, anything can happen,” said Rai, who is looking for his first European Tour win.
Matthew Fitzpatrick (68) and 2017 Race to Dubai winner Tommy Fleetwood (66) share second place, six off the pace at 10 under.
Sergio Garcia is a shot further back after hitting five birdies, a bogey and an eagle on the par-4 10th for a 6-under 64. The Spaniard is fourth with Australia’s Jason Scrivener (67).
“The only thing I can do is go out there tomorrow, play as well as I can play, hopefully get on a hot streak and put on a good round and see,” said Garcia.
South Korea’s Hyo-won Park (73) had cut Rai’s lead to just one shot at the turn before his round collapsed, including an 8 on the 18th with a penalty for his ball moving. He is tied for eighth on 7 under.