As New Zealand’s top-ranked golfer at the World Cup, Ryan Fox had the choice to pick his partner, and he took 43-year-old veterarn Mark Brown when several other players were not available.
Brown responded with a strong round Thursday to lead New Zealand to a 7-under 65 and tied for ninth.
“I was feeling a bit of pressure coming into this to try and justify Ryan picking me,” Brown said. “It was good to get off to a good start.”
Fox was impressed.
“I think I made one birdie today, so it’s pretty much all on Brownie,” Fox said. “Bernie played some great golf and it was good to see. He kind of needed to because my golf was terrible for the most part.”
Danny Lee withdrew from the event for New Zealand to spend time with his family. Michael Hendry was unable to commit with his Japan tour card in jeopardy.
STRONG FINISH FOR BELGIUM
Thomas Pieters and Thomas Detry birdied six of their last seven holes for a 9-under 63, a stroke behind the leaders, but it didn’t always look like it was going to end that way.
They made five pars to open, then on the par-3 sixth, their tee shots were about 100 feet apart.
“We weren’t that far away from thinking, ‘OK, maybe it’s now time to go back and close the season off right now,'” Detry said.
But the Belgian pair saved par on that hole, then made three birdies to finish off the front nine, followed by their six of nine on the back.
“I disappeared for a couple of holes and we made a couple of good putts,” Pieters said. “Worked out perfect. We just want to go out there and have fun. It sounds like a cliche, but that’s how you’re going to play your best golf.”
INDIA STRONG IN MIDDLE
Anirban Lahiri and Gaganjeet Bhullar were tied for seventh with Ireland after making five birdies in six holes on the front nine and another birdie on 18, giving them what Lahiri called an “aggressive” 64.
“I think both of us felt we should have made three or four more birdies coming in,” Lahiri said. “We missed a few, but you have to feed off each other’s energy.”
On Friday, it will be alternate shot, or foursomes.
“I think the mindset changes overnight,” Lahiri said. “We’ve played this quite a bunch, Eurasia Cups… Presidents Cups as well. So that experience is there and you can understand the dynamic.”
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