Belgium’s Thomas Pieters and Thomas Detry on Saturday fired a 63 and raced to the lead heading into the final round of the World Cup of Golf in Melbourne, Australia.
On a calm day at Melbourne’s Metropolitan Golf Club, Pieters and Detry secured a five-shot lead over Mexican duo Roberto Diaz and last week’s Australian Open winner Abraham Ancer (65), as well as Korea (68) and Italy (66).
The home team of Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman fired a seven-under-par 65 during the final four-ball round, but their 13-under total means they’ll start Sunday’s foursomes (Saturday night in the United States) six shots behind.
Australia’s team is in a tie for fifth alongside England duo Ian Poulter and Tyrrell Hatton (67) and Swedes Alexander Bjork and Joakim Lagergren (64).
Meanwhile, Americans Matt Kuchar and Kyle Stanley carded a 66 on Saturday but at five under are effectively out of the tournament.
Four-time major winner Ernie Els, who will captain the International side at next year’s Presidents Cup at nearby Royal Melbourne, has arrived in Australia and will attend the final day of the World Cup.
Smith, who was shattered when he missed out on selection for last year’s Presidents Cup in New York, knows winning a team event that uses a similar format would thoroughly impress Els.
“I think it’d go a long way … winning in a team format can’t hurt,” Smith told AAP about Els, who is in Melbourne on a promotional tour to mark 12 months out from the Presidents Cup.
But Smith is more motivated to lift Australia’s sixth trophy at the World Cup, which is an unofficial US PGA Tour event with a $US7 million purse.
“I’d love to get the win for Australia and do our fans proud,” he said.
“We’ve come here wanting to win and we’re both play good golf – anything could happen.”
A defiant Leishman said Belgium’s lead wasn’t as big as it seemed, given foursomes can be a volatile format with teammates having to hit alternate shots using the one ball.
In Friday’s foursomes session, only four teams broke par — albeit in wild weather.
“Foursomes is such a hard game and it’s hard to play with a lead,” Leishman said.
But the likeable Detry and three-time European Tour winner Thomas have backed themselves to convert their 54-hole lead.
A modest Detry had to be reminded by childhood friend Pieters that he led going into the final round at the 2016 Bridgestone event on the European Tour’s secondary Challenge circuit.
“You won by 12 on the Challenge Tour,” Pieters quipped.
“Oh yeah, that’s a good point,” Detry responded.