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24 November 2011

OMEGA Mission Hills World Cup: Australian set the pace on day one


Australian duo Brendan Jones and Richard Green blazed a trail on day one of the OMEGA Mission Hills World Cup on Thursday with an 11-under 61 in the opening fourballs. The in-form Aussies fired two eagles and seven birdies at Mission Hills Resort in Haikou, China, to lead by two shots over Ireland and Scotland.

Jones eagled the par-five 12th and Green did likewise at the 16th – a short par-four that gave up four eagles on the day – to maintain the momentum.

“We combined very well today,” said Green. “Brendan obviously started well and that helped me progress with my game on the back nine. I was able to contribute a little bit and get the eagle on the 16th which really helped us at that stage. It was a very, very good day.

“You know, in this game, it's just a matter of positioning yourself and giving the other guy an opportunity and allowing them to be a little bit more aggressive. We did that well all day.”

Jones said their games had dovetailed perfectly. “We never doubled up on birdies and that's the key in this game. You want to make a lot of birdies, but you don't want to make them on the same hole, and that's what we did.”

The duo tied for third at the 2008 OMEGA Mission Hills World Cup when the tournament was played at Mission Hills in Shenzhen and Jones said they were relishing being back together.

“When you're playing with somebody who you think is a very good player, it lifts your game as well. I hit the ball a little bit longer than Richard while he’s a very good putter. I think that's why we gel so well, because we both have confidence in each other.”

Both Australians are making their first visit to Hainan Island. “What we have seen so far is fantastic,” said Green. “The golf course is beautiful and the hotel and resort are amazing.

“We do a lot of travelling around the world and see a lot of golf courses in a lot of great places and Mission Hills is certainly a very nice place to be.”

Irish duo Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell – joint runners-up to Italy at the last OMEGA Mission Hills World Cup two years ago – were happy with their nine-under 63.

Reigning US Open champion McIlroy led the way with an eagle on the four-five sixth and five birdies before McDowell birdied 14 and 17.

“I thought it was a very solid opening day,” said McIlroy. “We sort of set a target of 8 to 10-under and we managed to shoot something around that, so it puts us in a great position going into the next three days.

“The fourballs this week are where you're going to make most of your birdies as the foursomes is a more demanding format. Both players need to be on their games to shoot a low score. It was a good start but we know we still have got a tough job ahead of us.”

Scottish pair Martin Laird and Stephen Gallacher matched Ireland, with the highlight of their round coming on the 16th where Laird chipped in for an eagle.

“That was nice,” reflected Laird. “That was the only hole all day where one of us had to pick up. I got a little lucky with my pitch going in, but you’ll always take that.”

A further shot back on eight-under were Dutch duo Joost Luiten and Robert-Jan Derksen and the USA pairing of Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland.

Italian brothers Edoardo and Francesco Molinari finished the day in joint 19th place on five-under while Liang Wenchong and Zhang Xinjun, carrying the hopes of host nation China, were on four-under.

Twenty-eight nations are chasing glory at the OMEGA Mission Hills World Cup, which is being held from 24-27 November.

The 2011 tournament marks the fourth occasion that OMEGA, the Swiss maker of prestige watches, has been title sponsor of the World Cup of Golf.

The tournament continues with the second round on Friday with the teams playing foursomes.