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Belgium race to five shot lead at golf World Cup


Thomas Pieters of Belgium tees off on the second day of the World Cup of Golf at the Metropolitan Golf Club in Melbourne on November 23, 2018. (Photo by William WEST / AFP)

Thomas Pieters and Thomas Detry zeroed in on Belgium’s first ever golf World Cup title Saturday, storming to a five stroke lead over the chasing pack with a peerless display of shot-making.

The pair began the third day level with An Byeong-hun and Kim Si-woo, but the South Koreans could only manage a 68 in the fourball format at Melbourne’s Metropolitan Golf Club, where both players have a ball but only the better score counts for each hole.

In contrast the young Belgians, former University of Illinois teammates, sank seven birdies and an eagle in a sizzling nine-under-par 63 — the best of the day — to be 19-under for the championship.

Italy’s Andrea Pavan and Renato Paratore stayed in the hunt with a 66 to be joint second alongside Mexico’s Abraham Ancer and Roberto Diaz (65) and the Koreans.

Pre-tournament favourites Australia — Mark Leishman and Cameron Smith — remained in touch, six off the pace, tied fifth with England’s Tyrrell Hatton and Ian Poulter and Sweden’s Alexander Bjork and Joakim Lagergren.

After battling icy winds and relentless rain on Friday in the foursomes, where teammates take it in turns to play the same ball, the weather was more benign on Saturday.

And Pieters, 26, and Detry, 25, turned on the style, bisecting fairways with their approach shots and holing superb putts, making light work of the difficult pin placements.

They charged through the front nine in five-under 31 after Detry eagled the 521-yard ninth, and made another four more birdies on the way home.

Belgium has never won a World Cup although Ryder Cup player Flory Van Donck, widely-regarded as the country’s best ever, captured the individual title in 1960.

“A win would mean a lot for golf in a small country like Belgium,” said Detry, who has finished third three times on the European Tour, including the KLM Open in September.

“To put our name on the trophy alongside some of the greats of the game would be fantastic.

“I have drawn great confidence this week from playing with my good friend,” he added.

The more established Pieters, a three-time European Tour winner and Ryder Cup player, said he was hitting the ball “the best I have all year” after an indifferent season.

He said the team strategy would not change on Sunday.

“We will just stay aggressive with Thomas (Detry) taking all the par threes (the even-numbered holes at the Metropolitan).

“That is what we did in the second (foursomes) round and it worked well. So there is no reason to change.”

Australia’s Leishman and Smith still hold out hope of reeling in the Belgians in front of their home crowd, but know a strong start is essential.

“It’s going to be really important for us to get off to a good start, really get ourselves in it, give them something to think about,” said Leishman.

“Because if we’re not a few under through five or six holes, they can sort of cruise.”

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