Australia and Spain are neck and neck going into the final round of the Omega Mission Hills World Cup after a thrilling third day saw Richard Green and Brendan Jones draw level at 22 under par.
While day two belonged to Spain, after Miguel Angel Jiménez and Pablo Larrazabal’s breathtaking display in the foursomes, the third day of fourball went to Australia as Green and Jones combined for a nine under par 63 to catch the Spanish pair.
On day three, Australia immediately set about closing Spain’s overnight four stroke lead. They birdied three of the first four holes, picking up two strokes in the process. The Spaniard’s eagle on the seventh, however, seemed to ignite Jiménez and Larrazabol and at the turn they were three in front. The three stroke margin remained intact until a dramatic change of fortunes on the 15th.
The last four holes of the Olazábal Course are notoriously tough and Spain, who had looked to be totally in control of the championship, bogeyed the par five 15th while Australia eagled when Jones holed from six feet. The three-shot swing put the two teams level and while Spain edged ahead with a birdie on the 16th, Australia moved into a share of the lead with a birdie on the last.
Jones holed the five footer on the final hole to match Spain’s 54 hole total and said: “I missed a little putt on the last hole yesterday, and I had the same sort of length putt today. I made up for it today. We feel a lot better now walking off the golf course with a birdie, as opposed to a bogey. It's a solid round of golf and we are right where we want to be.”
Both countries have won the World Cup title four times and are joint third on the list of all-time winners. A classic head-to-head contest over the final 18 holes lies ahead in the foursomes.
The final day reverts to foursomes as the teams compete for the honour of winning the 2008 Omega Mission Hills World Cup.
“Spain had an exceptional round of golf in that format on Friday,” said Green as he looked ahead to the final round. “But I guess in regards to Spain replicating that round of golf tomorrow, I personally doubt it. I think it's going to be a little bit tougher tomorrow, obviously a lot more pressure to win the tournament, and I think a good score tomorrow is going to be anything in the 60s.”
After the third round playing their own ball, the final day is back to alternate shots and teamwork will be vital.
Green said: “We both make decisions for the team. We both go out there and do as good as we can for Australia, and that's what it's all about, for both of us. We both feel very proud to represent Australia and no one stands above the other.”
Spain lit up the Omega Mission Hills World Cup on day two with their camaraderie and outstanding play and while the third day fell short of that expectation, they remain tied for the lead and are right in the hunt.
“We had not as good of a round as the first round, with more mistakes today,” said Larrazabal. “But, we are still leading. So we know if we are playing like yesterday, we are going to win the tournament. ”
Jiménez added: “Like Pablo says, you know, the game today is not at the level of the first two days. We made a lot of mistakes. On the 15th we dropped a shot, and in this format, that's like killing yourself.
“But at the end, we are five under par for a total of 22 under, and we hope tomorrow to keep on the same level of the game that we have as yesterday and before yesterday and keep in contention. We are playing not as solid as the first two rounds, but still, we feel solid and strong enough.”
Sweden, the pre-tournament favourites, are four shots adrift at 18 under par after Robert Karlsson, the 2008 European Tour Number One, and Henrik Stenson, carded a 66, while Germany lie a further shot back on 17 under par following the 68 of Martin Kaymer and Alex Cejka.
Ireland are currently in fifth place at 15 under par going into the final 18 holes after shooting 66 while the United States team is level with Japan at 14 under par after rounds of 69 and 68 respectively.
Home heroes Zhang Lian-wei and Liang Wen-chong finally came alive in the Omega Mission Hills World Cup, combining superbly for ten birdies as they carded a 64 to move from the bottom half of the leaderboard.
The 43 year old Zhang brilliantly produced a chip-in birdie on the demanding 18th hole to erase the bitter memories of their double bogey in Thursday’s opening fourball.
“Finally, we have a smile on our face. We were four under after five holes which was a great start. On 18, we were quite nervous on the tee after what happened on Thursday and then neither of us hit the fairway.
“But I told Liang not to give up and to aim for a par. My lie was bad in the rough but luckily my chip shot found the hole. It was a great shot. Today’s performance made us feel like we were the best team in the world today,” said Zhang.
The final day reverts to foursomes as the teams compete for the honour of winning the 2008 Omega Mission Hills World Cup. As the results of the first three days confirm, fortunes can change quickly and dramatically at the World Cup and Sunday’s round will be a test not only of golfing skill but of the players’ nerves.
Third round scores
194: Spain (Miguel Angel Jimenez, Pablo Larrazabal) 64-63-67
194: Australia (Richard Green, Brendan Jones) 63-68-63
198: Sweden (Henrik Stenson, Robert Karlsson) 65-67-66
199: Germany (Martin Kaymer, Alex Cejka) 62-69-68
201: Ireland (Graeme McDowell, Paul McGinley) 65-68-68
202: Japan (Ryuji Imada, Toru Taniguchi) 66-68-68, USA (Ben Curtis, Brandt Snedeker) 64-69-69
204: Denmark (Soren Hansen, Anders Hansen) 65-75-64, Philippines (Angelo Que, Marciano Pucay) 67-72-65, Canada (Graham Delaet, Wes Heffernan) 64-71-69
205: France (Gregory Havret , Gregory Bourdy) 68-75-62
206: England (Ian Poulter, Ross Fisher) 69-74-63, Thailand (Prayad Marksaeng, Thongchai Jaidee) 69-73-64
207: Italy (Francesco Molinari, Edoardo Molinari) 70-73-64, South Africa (Rory Sabbatini, Richard Sterne) 70-70-67, Portugal (Tiago Cruz,Ricardo Santos) 67-73-67, Finland (Roope Kakko, Mikko Korhonen) 69-70-68
208: China (Liang Wen-chong, Zhang Lian-wei) 69-75-64, New Zealand (Mark Brown, David Smail) 65-75-68
209: Chile (Felipe Aguilar, Mark Tullo) 67-76-66, Scotland,(Alastair Forsyth, Colin Montgomerie) 68-73-68, India (Jeev Mikha Singh, Jyoti Randhawa) 67-72-70, Korea (Bae Sang-moon, Kim Hyung-tae) 68-70-71
211: Guatemala (Pablo Acuna, Alejandro Villavicencio) 69-76-66
212: Chinese Taipei (Lin Wen-tang, Lu Wen-teh) 68-75-69
214: Wales (Bradley Dredge, Richard Johnson) 69-77-68, Mexico (Daniel De Leon, Osca Serna), 66-77-71
220: Venezuela (Miguel Martinez, Raul Sanz) 71-74-75
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