Abu Dhabi: Thomas Pieters and Alex Noren playing for Continental Europe took down Great Britain & Ireland’s top pairing Tommy Fleetwood and Shane Lowry 1-up in the opening match of the inaugural Hero Cup.
That was followed by another fine result from the Frenchman Antoine Rozner, who won the AfrBank Mauritius Open in his last start in 2022, and Thomas Detry beat Tyrrell Hatton and Jordan Smith 2-up at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
Those two wins played a key role as Continental Europe led GB&I 3-2 at the end of the first day of the three-day event,
Seamus Power and Robert MacIntyre hit back big and gave GB&I their only full point of the day beating Sepp Straka and Adrian Meronk 4&3 in the most one-sided match of the day.
Victor Perez-Guido Migliozzi tied with Callum Shinkwin – Matt Wallace while Continental Europe captain Francesco Molinari and Nicolai Hojgaard tied with Ewen Ferguson and Richard Mansell.
The Perez- Migliozzi clash with Wallace and Shinkwin went all the way to the 18th, with the GB&I pair winning the final hole to snatch a vital half.
Also, ensuring half a point right at the end was Mansell who holed a pressure putt on the last as he and Ferguson tied their match with Hojgaard, a late replacement for his brother, Rasmus, skipper Molinari to prevent Continental Europe from stretching their lead.
MacIntyre and Power pleased their skipper, Fleetwood, with a dominant show. Fleetwood said, “I think it’s been a very good first day. It was very competitive and a lot of good golf was played and it was quite amazing that four of the five matches went down the last hole. That just shows you how tight it is and also the high level of competition.
“They (MacIntyre and Power) both said they loved it and played great golf (and won 4&3 against Meronk and Straka). You know, it’s different when you are playing in teams and chemistry is probably the most important thing. You can look at all the stats you want, but guys that gel well together and have that chemistry is really important.
“We’ll see what happens the rest of the week, but I am so happy for those guys for putting in a dominant performance like that and, overall, we were the only team that put in a dominant performance like that, so I guess we’ll take that one as a positive.”
In the top match, Continental Europe looked like running away as Belgian Pieters and Swede Noren went 3-up on the front nine with Pieters playing some great golf. Fleetwood and Lowry fought back well to win the tenth. Then Noren holed two successive clutch putts to keep his team’s two-hole advantage.
Fleetwood led from the front and won the 14th and 15th for GB&I to tie the match. They were tied as they went to the 18th. On the 18th hole, Noren rolled in his putt at the last to secure a 1UP victory.
Swede Noren said: “It was a battle on my behalf. I played some decent golf in the middle but was just happy to get the up-and-down on the last. And Thomas, he hit some great shots in the end to get it, and the whole front nine he played great. He helped out the most, it was great.”
Detry and Rozner wiped out an early two-hole deficit in their match against Hatton-Smith. They won the fifth and seventh before taking the lead just before the turn courtesy of a great approach from Frenchman Rozner.
Smith hauled GB&I level at the tenth but the Continental Europe pair won the 12th to move ahead once more. There was late drama as Smith holed a monster putt at the 17th which looked like evening things before Rozner matched his birdie in style to keep Continental Europe’s ahead. They added to that by winning the final hole to clinch another point for Continental Europe.
GB&I got their first point on the board with Power and MacIntyre not losing a single hole in the bottom match. They looked comfortable throughout as they won the fourth, sixth, 11th, and 12th holes to reduce GB&I’s arrears.
Wallace and Shinkwin won the final hole of their match for the first tie of the day against Perez and Migliozzi.
Then Mansell, teaming with Ferguson ensured the lead did not become bigger by holding a pressure putt to tie the match with Molinari and Hojgaard.