Belgium makes history at ISPS HANDA Melbourne World Cup of Golf

Thomas Pieters and Thomas Detry played their way into the history books as Belgium savored a historic first victory at the ISPS HANDA Melbourne World Cup of Golf at The Metropolitan Golf Club on Sunday.

Courtesy of the PGA Tour

Holding a five-shot lead into the final day’s foursomes session, the former teammates at the University of Illinois held off the fast-charging Australian pair of Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith with their closing 4-under 68 which featured one eagle, six birdies and three bogeys.

“Being able to put our name down the list when you see the amount of good players and all the big names that were actually on the cup, it feels pretty special,” Detry said.

Leishman and Smith, partnering for the first time in the World Cup of Golf, raised local hopes when they narrowed the lead to two strokes on the 14th hole when Smith brilliantly holed out a bunker shot for their seventh birdie of the day. The home heroes could only par home to sign for the day’s joint best of 65 as the Belgians hung on for a memorable triumph in their nation’s golf history.

“Belgium was clearly the best team all week,” Leishman said. “When you come up against someone like that, we did what we had to do today to put the pressure on and they were just too good. When you get beat by someone who’s playing that well, there’s not much you can do.”

Mexico’s Abraham Ancer, who won the Emirates Australian Open last week, and Roberto Diaz closed with a 66 to share second place with the host nation, as they delivered their country’s best showing in the World Cup of Golf, improving from the previous high of seventh position achieved in 1965.

“I’ve been playing some really solid golf coming in to Australia and I just like the vibe,” Ancer said. “Everybody was super nice, had a great time. It was easy to keep playing some good golf here, I just loved it.”

Defending champions Denmark, represented by Thorbjorn Olesen and Soren Kjeldesen, put up a commendable showing, shooting a 65 to share fourth position with Canada’s Adam Hadwin and Nick Taylor at 17-under 271.

Pieters and Detry, who ended the week on 23-under-par 265, were delighted with their historic triumph. They started nervously with a bogey on two but a wonderful eagle conversion by Detry from 25 feet on the fourth hole restored their overnight five-shot advantage.

As Australia put up a title charge, the Belgians did enough on the back nine to emerge victorious.

“I think we’ll take a lot of confidence out of this,” Pieters said. “Like I said, it’s a shame the season’s over for me now. I felt like I played really good today and both of us we played really good. Sometimes we felt the guys coming, Australia coming right behind us and we answered it with a birdie, so I think we handled the situation very well.”

Cheered on by large crowds, Leishman and Smith produced a superb fightback as they enjoyed a birdie binge. But after Smith brilliantly delivered the home team’s seventh birdie from the greenside bunker, they failed to find another birdie despite some close attempts, including a short miss by Leishman on the 16th hole.

“We were seven or eight back at one stage,” Smith said. “You know, we’ve just played really solid golf the last four or five holes from Friday onwards. I don’t think we could have really asked for too much more. It was pretty solid.”

Mexico nearly raised its flag in Australia for a second time in as many weeks, with the pair of Ancer and Diaz turning in six birdies over their last 13 holes after an even-par start through five holes.

“I think we ham-and-egged it pretty well during the week,” Diaz said. “We played great. I drove it well, he did irons unbelievable the whole week. We happened to be good at the right moments.”

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