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Belgium and Korea take World Cup lead through 36 holes

Despite his partner's poor tee shot at the last, Pieters was still able to find the green with his approach (Photo: Bruce Young)
Belgium and Korea lead at the halfway stage of the 2018 World Cup of Golf at the Metropolitan Golf Club in Melbourne on a day where scoring, particularly in the alternate shot format and the testing conditions, proved troublesome for the bulk of the field.

Only four of the 28 sides would break par on day two, the best of that group being Mexico whose round of 2 under par 70 saw the recently crowned Australian Open Champion Abraham Ancer and Roberto Diaz improve 13 places to a share of 7th and just three from the lead.  

Not only was it a different format faced by the field on day two but the 56 players representing 28 countries encountered conditions vastly different to those of the opening day.

The alternate shot or foursomes format truly tests the playing compatibility of a combination in the best of conditions but in cold, wet and breezy conditions that task became even more difficult.

It took only one hole for the leading three teams of Thursday to drop a shot and within half an hour of the final group teeing off in round two, seven teams were tied at the top of the leaderboard with Australia, Korea, England, Malaysia, Belgium, India and Italy all sharing the lead at 9 under par.

Tournament organisers could thank their lucky stars that the event was being played amongst Melbourne’s famed sandbelt as in any other region of the world the mere existence of play on day two might well have been under a cloud in more ways than one.

Several rulings were required to adjudicate on casual water in bunkers but the golf course generally held up well to the constantly passing showers which came on top of heavy overnight rain.

The Belgian side of Thomas Pieters and Thomas Detry made few mistakes in their round of 71, taking a comfortable lead at one stage before Korea recovered from a slow start with two birdies to complete their opening nine.

Detry and Pieters made one of their few mistakes when they were long with their approach to the 17th and failed to get up and down from the bank bunker. They were perhaps lucky, however, at the last when Detry’s tee shot appeared headed for trouble but cleared the bunkers and pulled up short of the trees.

Pieters found the green with his approach and when they two putted they had set the score for the Koreans to match. That they did, a birdie at the par 5 14th followed by a series of pars to finish allowing Ben An and Si Woo Kim to share the 36 hole honours.

I think we played very solid," said Pieters. "Both of us were on and the short game was pretty good today.

"Thomas (Detry) holed out great from six or seven feet in and made some really good recovery bunker shots."

"It was unbelievable walking the fairways," added Detry referring to the capacity of the Metropolitan layout to remain playable despite the conditions. "To be honest I didn't think we would finish today and we did so it was good.

"I think we did well together. We never say sorry when we hit a bad shot and I think that helps."

 Korea began the week as one of the more favoured teams and nothing to date has changed that standing.

They found their feet after a slow start with birdies at the 9th and 10th and although bogeys at the 11th and 12th threatened their place at the top of the field a birdie by them at the 14th had them within one before the bogey by Belgium gave them a share of the lead.

Korea's Si Woo Kim 

Four teams, Italy, India, England and Malaysia share 3rd place at 8 under par and two from the lead, Italy taking the lead outright at one stage before a late bogey and improvement by others saw them two from the lead.

Italy's Andrea Pavan with his tee shot at the par 3 13th. 

Australia is in a group at 6 under par and four from the lead but in the roller coaster nature of the formats being used in this event there is the potential for much ground to be gained tomorrow and the Australians are certainly not out of it.

After two double bogeys in their first ten holes the local favourites appeared to be playing their way out of the tournament but three consecutive birdies in the middle of their back nine appeared to have them back on track.

They would bogey the last but they are still very much in the hunt as the event heads into the weekend.

Still reason to smile for Australia's Marc Leishman 

"It was pretty brutal," said Leishman referring to the conditions. "You know when it is like this in Melbourne its going to be tough," he added highlighting his familiarity with local conditions.

"Obviously not the start we were after but I think to put a positive light on the day we kind of fought back there at the end. A bogey on the last but it probably not a terrible round."

Smith described the conditions as the toughest he had played in in Australia ever.

Saturday promises slightly better conditions but still with the prospect of showers throughout the day.

The better-ball format on day three provides many of those countries who lost ground today the opportunity to get back in the hunt heading into Sunday.  

This tournament is nicely poised with most of the pre tournament favourites still within striking distance and with a purse of US$7 million and one of golf's more prestigious trophies to play for there are still many twists in this tail.


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