MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Rafa Cabrera Bello rolled in a long birdie putt on the 18th hole to give Spain a one-shot lead after the opening round of foursomes at the World Cup of Golf in Melbourne on Thursday.
Cabrera Bello combined with Jon Rahm for a three-under 69 as teams in the 28-nation field laboured on slick greens on a windy day at Kingston Heath.
The U.S. pair of Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker shot 70 to grab a share of second with France and China at the rebooted tournament while highly fancied hosts Australia, anchored by world number seven Adam Scott, disappointed with a 74.
Cabrera Bello, buffeted by wind gusts as he lined up his final putt, watched the ball meander toward the hole and sharply break right before it stopped on the lip, paused and dropped, triggering a roar from the gallery.
“That was a fun putt … I don’t know how it came back,” the 32-year-old said. “It’s been a good day … I think it’s a score we’re proud of and it’s a score we deserved.”
Fowler, who finished earlier than the Spaniards, had a similar long chance on the last to put the United States on three-under but his putt tantalizingly lipped out.
After a cautious start, he and Walker raced up the leaderboard with three consecutive birdies from the 13th but rued a dropped shot on the 16th to fall back in the pack.
“We got everything out of the round that we could and that’s key with alternate shot,” said world number 12 Fowler.
“We made some good putts to keep the round going and worked well together.”
Former U.S. Masters Champion Scott won the team component of the previous event in Melbourne in 2013 with individual winner Jason Day, when the tournament was a 72-hole strokeplay format.
But his partnership with Marc Leishman got off to a rocky start with bogeys on the second and the sixth and the pair managed only one birdie for the round on the 15th.
Leishman let his team mate down by missing a number of makeable putts, including a short one for par on the 18th that left them five strokes adrift for Saturday’s four-ball round.
“We just couldn’t get any momentum,” said Scott.
“It’s very tough to gauge exactly what’s going on out there when it’s blustery.
“But it’s not that bad.”
British pair Chris Wood and Andy Sullivan were tied for fifth on one-under after shooting a 71 with Italy’s Francesco Molinari and Matteo Manassero.
Ireland’s Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell were a shot further adrift on even par with Sweden and Denmark.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)