Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell tore up the course with a 14-under 58 to give Ireland a three-stroke lead after the first-round fourballs at the 55th World Cup of Golf yesterday.
Perfect scoring conditions at Mission Hills and the easier better-ball format led to a number of birdies and eagles throughout the field, but the sensational round by the two Ulstermen was a class above their rivals.
Although a shot short of the World Cup fourballs record, it was enough for a comfortable cushion over second-placed Argentine duo Rafa Echenique and Tano Goya, who carded a 61.
World No. 10 McIlroy drained a 20-foot eagle putt at the par-five 15th and was inches away from chipping in for another at the next hole, before grabbing Ireland’s 10th and 11th birdies of the day to take the outright lead.
McDowell did his bit for the cause too, contributing seven birdies in the blemish-free round, including four as the pair charged through the front nine at seven-under and another with a 12-foot putt at the 18th.
The scores are likely to be higher in the more difficult foursomes today, but the duo look in good shape to claim Ireland’s third World Cup and a first since Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley in 1997.
Echenique, runner-up at the BMW International Open in June, also eagled the 15th, before giving Argentina the clubhouse lead by draining a 20-foot putt on the final green.
The Argentines were matched for most of the day by their playing partners Ryuji Imada and Hiroyuki Fujita of Japan, who carded a 62 for third place, ahead of defending champions Sweden, Italy, Canada and South Korea, who all shot 64s.
Taiwan’s Lin Wen-tang and Lu Wei-chih shot a five-under 67 to be tied for 15th place.
AFP, KOCHI, JAPAN
Japan’s Yusaku Miyazato, better known as the brother of women’s golfing star Ai Miyazato, shot a bogey-free seven-under 65 to take the lead after the first round of the Casio Open yesterday.
Starting from the back nine, Miyazato sank five birdies, including a run of four from the 15th hole, before adding two more on the front nine.
Last year’s top money earner on the Japan Tour, Shingo Katayama, trailed Miyazato by one stroke.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STAFF WRITER