Spain grabs big lead at World Cup of Golf

SHENZHEN, China (AP) — Miguel Angel Jimenez and Pablo Larrazabal lifted Spain into a four-shot lead at the World Cup of Golf, shooting a surprising 9-under 63 on Friday in the difficult foursomes (alternate-shot) format.

Spain has shot a 17-under 127 through 36 holes. Australia (68) and Germany (69) were in second place behind Spain, which opened on Thursday with a 64 playing the easier fourball (best-ball) format.

Sweden (67), was five back, and the United States (69) and Ireland (68) were six off the pace.

The sensational round should give the Spanish a strong chance to win the event, which usually goes to the team that plays best in foursomes, where scores are typically higher. Saturday returns to fourball with foursomes on Sunday.

“That’s a great round for foursomes, but tomorrow will be another day,” said 25-year-old Larrazabal, the 2008 European tour rookie of the year.

The Spanish picked up seven strokes on the front nine with five birdies and an eagle. They were 8-under after 10 holes and 9-under after 11. Jimenez had the hot hand early, making a 15-foot birdie on No. 2, and a 17-footer for eagle on No. 3.

“I mean, great start,” Larrazabal said.

Spain dropped its first shot on 15, falling back to 8 under for the day.

However, the Spanish recovered on 16, moving back to 9 under when Larrazabal dropped a 40-foot birdie putt. On 18, Larrazabal missed an 8-foot putt for birdie which would have brought Spain to 10 under.

The record in foursomes in the World Cup is 10-under 61 by Argentina in 2005.

Jimenez and Larrazabal seemed relaxed throughout the round, with Jimenez at times smoking his trademark cigar.

“Foursomes, you know – it’s the kind of thing that is very sensitive,” Jimenez said. “You need to be nice and not competitive with you partner. That is what happened today. He hit it very nice from the tee, I put it in close and he holed the putt and vice versa.”

Spain has won the event four times, twice in 1976 and ’77 with Seve Ballesteros. Spain last won in 1984 with Jose Maria Canizares and Jose Rivero.

It’s been a great year for Spain. Its football team won the European championship and in tennis Spain just won the Davis Cup – without the world’s No. 1 player Rafael Nadal.

In the World Cup, Spain is playing without No. 2-ranked Sergio Garcia, who elected not to play.

The German team of Martin Kaymer and Alex Cejka – leaders at 10 under after the first round – managed a 69 with three birdies on the back nine.

“We were just trying to survive today and not to lose too much ground,” Cejka said.

It was the same for Australians Richard Green and Brendan Jones.

“It was a tough game today,” Green said. “Foursomes is not the easiest to play.”

That made Spain’s round even more impressive.

“The Spanish team today was just amazing,” Jones said. “It is hard to keep your swing in check because you are only swinging every second shot. So sometimes you putt, putt, putt, putt.”

Americans Ben Curtis and Brandt Snedeker got themselves back in the tournament with birdies on the last four holes.

“It was a great way to finish, otherwise it could have been an ugly day and it wasn’t,” Snedeker said. “We have a chance going into the weekend.”

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