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Belgium controls World Cup's destiny

This approach to the 10th hole by Thomas Pieters set up yet another birdie for Belgium side. (Photo: Bruce Young)
The "double Thomas" team of Belgian's Pieters and Detry have broken clear of the field at the ISPS Handa World Cup of Golf at the Metropolitan Golf Club in Melbourne and with just 18 holes to play in the US$7 million event the pair leads by five shots over Mexico, Italy and Korea who are, in turn, one shot ahead of Sweden, Australia and England.

Ranked 70th and 140th respectively in the current world ranking, Thomas Pieters and Thomas Detry have defied that standing, combining beautifully throughout the opening 54 holes and have taken control of the event to the point where it is now their event to win or lose.

When asked on their respective records of leading an event heading into the final round Detry said he had only been a professional for two years suggesting he was not experienced in such a situation.

Pieters very conveniently reminded him however he had won a Challenge Tour event by 12 shots on one occasion. It was a light moment from Pieters and perhaps highlighted the ham and egg personalities of the two players and just why they are combining so well this week.

"Yeah I tend to be pretty relaxed," said Detry. "When I have played with him this week he seems to be a very enjoyable playing partner although I guess not much has gone wrong," referring to the fact that earlier this year Pieters had broken a club around his neck at the BMW PGA Championship.

It was all in good jest and it is clear that there is both camaraderie and respect between the pair. 

After beginning the day in a share of the lead with playing partners Korea, Belgium raced to the turn in 31 although despite their brilliance they had established only a one shot lead at that point.

A red hot Italian side of Renato Paratore and Andrea Pavan had birdied six of their first ten holes to challenge their fellow Europeans but others were also joining the mix.

Last week's Australian Open champion, Abraham Ancer, teamed with Roberto Diaz to move Mexico through the field, their round of 65 moving them into second place from their overnight share of 6th as they walked from the 18th green.

Not only was the execution superb by the Belgians but so too was the decision making.

The Korean side of Ben An and Si Woo Kim recovered from the almost unforgivable bogey (in this format where both players play their own ball) at the 5th to reach the turn in 34 then moved into a share of 2nd when An drove the green at the reachable par 16th and converted for eagle.

They would though drop another shot when An was long with his approach at the 17th and his playing partner found the trees from the tee but a superb second by An to the last set up one final birdie for the Koreans and perhaps kept their chance of victory alive.

His short putt was not needed however as Kim holed a lengthy birdie putt ahead of him and they were tied for second place. 

Korea's Ben An - he and Si Woo Kim's hopes still alive but only just. 

The Italians will rue their double bogey at the par 5 14th not only missing out on the opportunity to creep closer to the leaders but costing themselves valuable ground in the process. Their opening ten holes and that they were able to bounce back from that gut-wrenching disaster at 14 however will provide hope for tomorrow.

The Australians needed to make a move on day three and they did just that with an outward nine of 30 to reach the lead at one point before the momentum slowed over the closing nine holes with just one birdie. Their round of 65 was impressive enough but after starting four from the lead they are now six behind the Belgians and need help from ahead as well as something special of their own tomorrow. 

"Yeah it was a good day but probably a story of two different nines," said Marc Leishman. " We goot off to a good start obviously cooled a little on the back nine. But the back nine was set up extremely tough.

"It's interesting in four-ball when you are so used to attacking and you couldn't really attack. We were trying to make 20 and 30 footers for birdie and we were not able to."

"Whatever they do tomorrow (the Belgian side) it is really important we to get off to a good start - we really need to get in it and give them something to think about."

Australia's Cameron Smith and caddy Sam Pinfold discuss club selection at the 12th hole.

And so tomorrow it is back to the alternate shot or foursomes format which may make catching the leaders even harder. The combination required to go very low in that format in order to chase down a leader is hard to produce and while five shots is not insurmountable it is a formidable lead in a format such as that being used on Sunday.

 

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