SHENZHEN, China(AP) Martin Kaymer and Alex Cejka combined for a 10-under 62, giving Germany a one-stroke lead over Australia’s Richard Green and Brendan Jones after the first round of the World Cup of Golf on Thursday.
Three teams – Spain, Canada and the United States – were two shots behind. Four others were only three back – Sweden, Ireland, Denmark and New Zealand – in the team event with an unusual format at the Mission Hills Golf Club in southern China.
Despite gusting winds and the hilly layout, scores were low playing the easier fourball (best-ball) format. Friday’s format is the tougher foursomes (alternate-shot) where scores will be higher.
Kaymer birdied the first three holes, Cejka added one at the fourth – and then Kaymer put Germany at 6-under at No. 7, when he dropped a 75-foot eagle putt.
“That eagle putt was one of the longest putts I’ve ever made,” Kaymer said. “It was over a huge ridge.”
Added Cjeka: “That was a nice bonus.”
For Cejka, this tournament could be a season-ending perk.
He underwent neck surgery following the British Open to correct a pinched nerve, and this is his first serious competition since then. Cejka described his game as only about 80 percent and expects to be in rehabilitation through January.
“The second half of the year was basically nothing for me. I was sitting on the couch.”
Defending champion Scotland – a team comprising Colin Montgomerie and Alastair Forsyth – shot a 4-under 68, six strokes off the lead.
Once a prestigious event with winners including household names like Nicklaus, Palmer, Snead, Hogan and Woods, this tournament is trying to reinvent itself under sponsor Omega. Though prize money has been increased by $500,000 to $5.5 million, it still has attracted only three of the world’s top-20 ranked players.
Two are with Sweden – No. 6 Robert Karlsson and No. 12 Henrik Stenson. The other is No. 20 Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain
“Of course you want to play well,” Kaymer said, “but this is a team event and I think we should just enjoy this week. This is the last tournament for most of the players in the year.”
Like the Germans, the Americans got an early boost when Brandt Snedeker holed an eagle on No. 4 – a 138-yard 9-iron that found the cup. It followed partner Ben Curtis’ birdies on two of the first three holes.
“It was my first good shot of the day,” Snedeker said. “It kind of got us kick-started a little bit.”
The strategy in this event is to take a few risks in fourball and be more conservative in foursomes on Friday and Sunday.
“Obviously the alternate-shot days are going to be the days where you are going to really find out who is playing well and who is not,” Curtis said.
One of the problems for the American players is the timing of the tournament, which began this year on Thanksgiving Day – the most family-oriented holiday on the American calendar.
“It makes it tough,” Curtis said. “A lot of people have a lot of priorities at home and it makes it tough for people to travel.”