Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell are refusing to underestimate any of their rivals after the high-ranked duo drew level with Australia at the top of the World Cup leaderboard yesterday.
Australia’s Richard Green and Brendan Jones went into the second round with a two-shot lead, but two bogeys over the final four holes left them tied on 13-under with Ireland, who carded a four-under 68 in overcast conditions on the Blackstone course in Haikou, on China’s Hainan Island.
“I’m not surprised to see Australia sharing the lead with us because every nation in this field has the chance of victory, so we will not be treating the Australians any less different to any of the other 26 nations,” McIlroy said.
Despite competing at the 28-team event without the likes of Adam Scott, Jason Day, Geoff Ogilvy or Aaron Baddeley, McDowell was quick to praise the two men who are representing Australia.
“Richard Green is a multiple winner on tour and we’ve played with Brendan many times; and he has a lot of majors and world golf championship experience,” McDowell added.
“He’s played in Japan and won many times over there so like Rory said, we will be showing the Aussies every respect, but then there is also Scotland just one behind and looking at the board, with two rounds to play, there’s 18 nations separated by just five shots,” he added after yesterday’s foursome round.
“Among those is the United States, Spain and New Zealand just three behind and there’s England and Holland, with Joost [Luiten] in the team, who is in good form after winning last week, at nine under,” he said.
“Today, I struggled somewhat on the greens, but overall I am happy with the way I am swinging the club in general, while Rory is still playing lovely,” McDowell added.
Ireland is looking to win the World Cup for only a second time in 55 runnings of the US$7.5 million event, whereas Australia have tasted success four times, the last being in 1989.
Australia started well and moved three strokes clear of the field when they birdied the second and then eagled the sixth, but an “ugly” finish saw them fall back into a tie for the lead.
“The 18th is a very difficult finishing hole, but it wasn’t just 18, because we bogeyed 15 as well and we struggled for pars on 16 and 17, so it was a bit of an ugly finish,” Jones said. “But the important thing for us is that we are still at the top, so they are chasing us and they are chasing Ireland.”
“We could not win the tournament today, but we sure could have fallen back in the field. So to be in the position we are in, we will take the positives out of that and try and get some rhythm back in our game, and play a more attacking game,” he added.
The Scottish duo of Martin Laird and Stephen Gallacher had the chance to join the leaders, but bogeyed the last for a score of 69 to sit alone in third at 12-under-par.
Scotland is seeking to capture the World Cup for a second time following the country’s maiden victory in 2007.
“It always leaves a sour taste in the mouth when you drop a shot at the last in any event, but Martin and myself overall are in a better position,” Gallacher said.
The US team of Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland did not drop a shot in their round of 70, with the latter full of praise after organizers invited each and every American present at the venue to a lavish Thanksgiving dinner the night before.