China’s Wu Ashun and Li Haotong had fun on day one of the US$8 million ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf, knocking in improbable birdies late in the opening foursomes that sparked chest-bump celebrations on Thursday.
Wu, 31, delighted the large galleries at Kingston Heath Golf Club with his heroics and exuberance by holing lengthy putts on 16 and 18 to help China sign for a two-under-par 70. They ended the day in tied second place with the United States and France, one behind leaders Spain.
“It was very good and my partner was playing very good and we made a lot of birdies and it was very exciting,” said Wu, who is a two-time European Tour champion.
Bogeys on 12 and 15 sent China back to level par in the alternate-shot round before Wu produced his magic by finding the bottom of the cup for the team to move back to red numbers. His delight was heightened with chest bumps with his equally excited 21-year-old partner Li.
“We made I think the best putt. Just unbelievable. Li was giving me some ideas on the breaks and talked about speed, it was very fast and the wind’s were blowing too. So we talked a little bit on the line and he said just take it easy, just relax and putt and it goes in. It’s unbelievable,” said Wu.
Rising star Li, who has one European Tour victory to his name, was delighted with China’s strong start as they began their chase for a first victory in the World Cup of Golf. “Wu holed everything. We had birdie chances but we finally made a couple of really, really incredible putts. It’s quite fun,” said Li.
Wu explained a bogey on 15 had got the team down but after his ball disappeared on 16 from over 30 feet, they went wild. “It was so exciting when I made birdie because we made bogey on that par 3 (on 15), so we needed some power,” said Wu, who is making his second appearance in the World Cup of Golf.
Spaniards Rafa Cabrera Bello and Jon Rahm recorded a solid 69 on a tough day of scoring, with swirly winds making life tricky for the 28 two-man team event. A birdie on the last, where Cabera-Bello’s ball seemed to defy the laws of gravity by dropping into the hole, got the Spaniards ahead of the pack.
“That was a fun putt because when I was seeing it, it looked like I couldn’t miss and then all of a sudden it could really miss and I don’t know how it came back,” said Carbrera Bello, who was the only unbeaten European golfer in the recent Ryder Cup.
“I think we played good. It was obviously tough and tricky with the wind. But Jon played great, I rolled some putts and hit some good shots as well, so I think it was a score we’re proud of but also a score we deserve.”
On Thanksgiving day, the Americna pairing of Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker were thankful for each other as partners after both pointed to key shots made by the other as part of their opening 70.
“I’m thankful to have a stud partner,” said Walker, the 2016 U.S. PGA Championship winner. “Rickie putted really well and made some clutch putts beginning of the round. Putting really saved us today.”
While Fowler and Walker have been friends off the course for quite awhile, they have also developed good chemistry on the course having partnered for this year’s victorious U.S. Ryder Cup Team. Playing foursomes is not a format that the best players in the world put into competition often, so to have that experience was important for the U.S. World Cup Team.
“I think we got everything out of it I think we could have,” Walker said. “Rickie hit it great, hit some good shots. It was an all-around effort.”
The 2016 World Cup will be the 58th staging of this event. For ticket information and to follow all of the news, player features and more as the event approaches, the ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf web-site is http://www.pgatour.com/tournaments/isps-handa-world-cup-of-golf.html