Date: November 27, 2016
Author: Golf Australia

Danes delight in first World Cup

An emotional Soren Kjeldsen declared the power of Denmark’s first World Cup of Golf triumph so strong that he’d “die for” partner Thorbjorn Olesen during a spectacular back-nine victory march.

After wobbling to a nerve-wracking bogey on the relatively easy par-five eighth, the imperious Danes relaxed and peeled off six back-nine birdies to storm home by four strokes, capping a week they’d dominated since Friday.

But it didn’t come without a nervy few minutes mid-round, when they were forced to fight off a three-pronged attack to salute at Kingston Heath.

While the pair are contrasts in ages and game-styles, Kjeldsen and Olesen combined superbly in the best-ball format for a closing six-under 66 to finish on 20-under, four shots clear of China (65), France (63) and the US (66).

Simply, Kjeldsen, 41, and Olesen, 26, answered every challenge, taking turns to nail critical birdie putts every time the lead was whittled away.

"Our mental strength is keeping calm and playing our own game. I wasn't too worried, I thought the birdies would come on the back nine and they did," Olesen said. 

Chinese duo Ashun Wu and Haotong Li crept within one stroke early on the back nine before Kjeldsen holed a birdie putt to restore the buffer. A Victor Dubuisson birdie at the par-three 15th propelled France to just one shot back. And this time Olesen answered with a 2m birdie putt, playing three holes behind the French, to ward off the leaderboard danger.

Sweden's Alex Noren and David Lingmerth playing four groups ahead, also crept within a shot after firing a brilliant 10-under 62 to eventually finish fifth at 15-under. But no one could overhaul the daring Danes.

Olesen's hot putter delivered birdies at the 13th, 14th and 15th holes to restore the leaderboard buffer. Fittingly, the younger member of the team, who turns 27 in three weeks, gave himself an early birthday treat by rolling in a curling 10m birdie putt on the 18th green.

Kjeldsen was effusive in his praise of his younger partner: “The psychology (of a team) is really interesting to me. When you get a guy like this, on the back nine you feel you want to die for this guy. I've never felt that before and that team thing is amazing.”

In golf terms, the Danish pair are the odd couple. Olesen loves to keep check of leaderboards around the course and Kjeldsen tries to avoid them. “We play different games, we don't talk much and just play our shots and that's helpful,” Olesen said.

It's Denmark's first World Cup triumph – Thomas Bjorn and Olesen finished third behind Australia's victors Jason Day and Adam Scott at nearby Royal Melbourne in 2013.

Sweden, who started the fourball final round nine shots back, could only ponder what might have been with a more polished foursomes effort than the tardy third round 73.

“We really played quite solid (on Saturday) and ended up bogeying a couple of the last four holes. So, one-over yesterday could have been a couple under and we would have really been in the mix. But finishing on a good note today, we're not going to dwell on the last few days. It has been a fun week,” Lingmerth said.

Italy's Francesco Molinari and Matteo Manassero reeled off an eight-under 64, but they were just too far back to get a glimpse of the leaders.

“We gave ourselves a lot of birdie chances and it could have been a really low one. It was a low one with a good finish, so we're happy about that,” Manassero said.

“Obviously, Francesco gave me the opportunity to play and we had a lot of fun. I think this is a great format and, obviously, you're representing your country. It's an amazing field and we had a great time.”

With the 6503m (7111yds) layout fanned by a gentle southerly breeze for the first time, it didn't take long for teams to realise they had to go low to have any chance.

Welsh pair Bradley Dredge and Stuart Manley, in the first group on to the course, redeemed themselves after Saturday's horror 80 with a flawless nine-under 63.

England's Chris Wood and Andy Sullivan, who tumbled down the leaderboard after a leaky back nine on Saturday, also bounced back with a seven-under 65 and Germany's Alex Cejka and Stephan Jaeger, equal last in the 28-teams competition at the halfway mark, hit back with a closing 64 to finish on -9 and tied 13th.