Date: November 24, 2018
Author: Mark Hayes

Belgium kicks clear at World Cup

Australia loomed large at the ISPS Handa World Cup today, but not large enough to trouble runaway leader Belgium.

When Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman turned in six-under-par 30 in the third-round fourball at Metropolitan, they’d run down the overnight leaders and the big gallery was humming in support.

But the birdies dried up on the tougher back nine and, concurrently, Thomas Pieters and Thomas Detry lit up to card Belgium’s second 63 in three days to take a commanding lead into tomorrow’s final round of foursomes.

At 19 under, the Belgians are five strokes clear of Mexico (65), Italy (66) and second-round joint leader Korea (68), with Sweden (64), England (67) and host Australia (65) a shot further back at 13 under.

Leishman, who got the Aussies rolling with an eagle on the par-five fourth, said he and Smith were still close enough, but conceded they’d let a chance slide.

“It was a good day.  It was probably a story of two different nines.  We got off to a great start obviously and cooled off a bit on the back-9,” Leishman said.

“But the back was set up extremely tough, I thought, which is kind of interesting in fourball when you're so used to attacking and you couldn't really attack. 
“So trying to make the 20- and 30-footers for birdies and we just weren't able to make them.  But it was nice to birdie 16 and, finish off for seven under (today).”

Smith was extremely unlucky on the final hole when his laser 130m approach half-volleyed the pin and rebounded back off the green, robbing the Aussies of an almost certain birdie.

“Yeah, I didn’t play my best golf on that back nine and just as I hit a good shot, I got a bit unlucky … but that’s just golf for you,” the laidback Queenslander said.

Leishman said the Sunday format would work in the Aussies’ favour, especially with some raucous support from the home fans.

“Whatever the conditions do, foursomes is such a hard game.  It's going to be really important for us to get off to a good start, really get ourselves in it, give them (the leaders) something to think about, because if we're not a few under through five or six holes, they can sort of cruise,” Leishman said.

“It would be good if we could get the crowd into it.  I don't think we need to get ourselves up, I think more so to get the guys behind us thinking about it.

“If we get the ‘Fanatics’ roaring, our friends and family, we have a lot of people supporting us, which is great.  We've enjoyed that so far this week and it would be nice if we could make tomorrow our best day.”

Pieters and Detry were exemplary again and within reach of Belgium’s first World Cup, but their task was made easier by an incredible sequence of holes by the Italian team.

Andrea Pavan and Renato Paratore in a month of Sundays wouldn’t have an individual seven up the par-five 14th at Metro, yet somehow inexplicably combined to have one as a team today with a series of botched shots around the green.

When bogeys are a fourball “no-no”, the double-bogey threatened to derail the Italians, especially when they followed up with a closing bogey five on the 18th.

Yet they poured in nine birdies around the carnage to stay right in the mix.

The final round begins tomorrow at 9.55am and the Aussies third last out at 12.06pm playing alongside Sweden.