SHENZHEN, China (AP) — For a self-declared “redneck” from the Florida Panhandle, Boo Weekley is finding this week’s World Cup of Golf in China both baffling and rewarding.
Policemen salute as players approach the tee. The sport’s etiquette is abandoned as fans jostle for space and photos, mobile phones ring constantly and golf carts buzz around everywhere.
“I mean, don’t know if the Chinese crowd understands,” Weekley said.
“There’s a lot of movement out there, a lot of talking.”
Welcome to golf, Chinese style.
Weekley overcame those distractions Friday to shoot a 3-under 69 with partner Heath Slocum and keep a one-stroke lead for the United States after two rounds.
England’s Justin Rose and Ian Poulter, and Colin Montgomerie and Marc Warren of Scotland both shot 68s to trail by a shot on 13-under 131. The South African team of Trevor Immelman and Retief Goosen were another shot back after a 69. Three teams were three behind – Denmark (68), Italy (68) and Germany (71) – and 18 teams were within eight shots of the lead.
Playing the more difficult foursomes (alternate-shot) format, scores soared after the easier fourballs (better-ball) on Thursday. Better-ball will return on Saturday and alternate-shot features on Sunday. Though this is a stroke-play event, match-play rules are in play.
Weekley praised the enthusiasm of the Chinese, who have little golf tradition. “They clap when you hit a good shot and they always say `hey’ and `hi,”’ he added. “But it – it’s just different.”
Get used to it.
This is the first year in a 12-year contract to play this unusual team event at the Mission Hills Golf Club, the world’s largest golf complex with 12 courses spread over 15 square kilometers (5.8 square miles) just a few minutes drive from Hong Kong.
Securing a permanent home and a sponsor in Omega may help the event draw a top field in coming years. This year, Rose and Poulter are the only players ranked in the top 20.
Weekley – he takes his nickname from the cartoon character Boo Boo Bear – got his invitation only after 13 other Americans ranked ahead of him declined. He picked Slocum, his high-school chum.
The tournament is set on the Olazabal Course, designed by the two-time Masters winner Jose Maria Olazabal. The rolling layout, gouged out of rugged hills and lush, tropical vegetation feels familiar. So are the grainy Bermuda greens.
“They are fairly similar to where Boo and I grew up,” Slocum said.
What’s unfamiliar is a 100-foot-high stone statue of Guanyin – a Chinese female goddess with Buddhist origins – towering over the final holes.
“You see the big statue stand up, you kind of know you’re somewhere else,” Slocum added. “It’s definitely different than any place that we have in the U.S.”
Golf, however, is golf and the Americans didn’t make enough putts to stretch their lead.
“We just didn’t make anything today like we did yesterday,” said Slocum, who missed 5-foot birdie putts on 13 and 17.
“This is a hard format (foursomes) to play, to keep a rhythm,” Slocum added. “But we started the day ahead and we finished the day ahead.”
If they win, the prize for each is $800,000 (539,483) out of the $5 million (3.37 million) purse.
England had a chance to at least share the lead, but stumbled to its only bogey on the par-3 17th. Poulter ran a 20-foot putt for birdie 7 feet past the hole, and Rose missed to save par.
Scotland pulled within a shot on 18 when Montgomerie dropped a 5-foot birdie putt following Warren’s long approach to the green. It was also Montgomerie who helped save par on 17 when his 60-foot chip landed just inches away for Warren to tap in.
Famously sensitive to crowd noise, Montgomerie stood with hands on hips on 17 and stared down the gallery until it got quiet.
South Africa went to 13-under on 17, capitalizing on Goosen’s 20-foot birdie putt. But his tee shot on 18 found deep rough, leading to a bogey on the closing hole.
Rose and Poulter were 5-under after 10 holes and briefly held the lead, but lost momentum on the back nine by failing to convert chances on the par-5 holes.
“We certainly got off to a good start and were jelling nicely,” Rose said. “The back nine just came down to missed opportunities.”
Added Poulter: “That’s just a bit of a shame when we got off to such a flying start.”