World Cup of Golf: Belgium takes commanding five-stroke lead to Sunday’s final round

Belgium’s Thomas Pieters and Thomas Detry continued their impressive form at the ISPS HANDA Melbourne World Cup of Golf to hold a five-shot lead over Mexico, Korea and Italy at The Metropolitan Golf Club.

Courtesy of the PGA Tour

After being just one of four teams to break par in Friday’s foursomes under difficult conditions, the Belgians followed it up with a 9-under 63 in the four-ball format, which stood as the low round of the day. After enduring an early charge by Team Australia, Belgium regained the lead after the partners Thomas picked up five shots over a four-hole span thanks to an eagle on the par-5 ninth hole by Detry and three birdies by Pieters.

“I kind of wish the season wasn’t ending now because I’m actually playing really good right now,” Pieters said. “Hopefully I can take that into next year. I can just feel my confidence growing the last four, five tournaments.”

Former teammates at the University of Illinois, Pieters and Detry and looking to bring home Belgium’s first team title in the World Cup of Golf. Its previous best finish is a T4 in the event’s third edition in 1955.

“I think it means a lot. Walking up that first tee, when you see the trophy, it’s just unbelievable,” Detry said. “You see all those names on there, you see pretty much all the countries and all the players that won this tournament. It’s pretty amazing. Having our name on the board and on the trophy and bringing it back to Belgium…”

Team Italy emerged as Belgium’s top challenger after rattling off four birdies in a row from hole Nos. 7-10 but faltered down the stretch with a double-bogey on the par-5 14th and a bogey on the finishing hole to finish with a 6-under 66. But Andrea Pavan and Renato Paratore see plenty of positives returning to the foursomes format for the final round.

“I feel like the golf course sets up nicely,” Pavan said. “I don’t have to hit many tee shots tomorrow and I can just rely on my iron game and he can have a lot of — hopefully I can give him a lot of birdie looks. Yeah, we’ll just look forward to that.”

Co-leaders after 36 holes with Belgium, Koreans Byeong Hun An and Si Woo Kim settled for a 4-under 68 in four-ball after carding three bogeys on the round. An unlikely eagle by An on the 16th and Kim birdie on the 18th aided a late charge and kept the Team Korea in the hunt heading to the final round.

“We struggled all day today,” An said. “There were not many birdies and we weren’t making any putts. Making [eagle on 16] definitely was my only highlight of the day and that really helps. Bogey on 17 kind of hurts a little bit but [Si Woo] birdieing 18 definitely keeps the momentum going.”

Mexico is the final team tied for second that faces an uphill climb in order to catch the formidable Belgians. After making par on the first three holes, Abraham Ancer and Roberto Diaz rallied to birdie seven of their last 15 holes to finish tied for second after three rounds. Team Mexico will look to mount another charge up the leaderboard during the foursomes format after its 2-under 70 on Friday stood as the low round of the day.

“I think that our trust in each other is pretty high, so I trust his game, he trusts mine,” Diaz said. “The way this format works tomorrow, it sets up for us because I hit a bunch of drivers and he’s a great iron player, so the key tomorrow will be having a bunch of birdie looks. So yeah, I think we’re right in there and excited for tomorrow.”

It’s not an impossible task with Germany achieving the feat at the 2006 World Cup of Golf in Barbados. The German team of Bernard Langer and Marcel Siem made up five shots on leaders Sweden to grab the title in a playoff against Scotland, while the Swedes finished a shot further back in third.

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