MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Denmark fought off a three-pronged attack to win golf’s World Cup at Kingston Heath on Sunday.
Soren Kjeldsen and Thorbjorn Olesen held their nerve after a four-shot overnight lead was threatened by China, France and Sweden.
The pair combined superbly in the best-ball format for a closing 6-under 66 to finish on 20-under 268, four shots clear of France (63), China (65) and the United States (66) in a three-way tie for second.
Kjeldsen and Olesen took turns to nail critical birdie putts every time the lead was whittled back.
“Our mental strength is keeping calm and playing our own game. I wasn’t too worried, I thought the birdies would come on the back nine and they did,” Olesen said.
Chinese duo Ashun Wu and Haotong Li crept within one stroke early on the back nine before Kjeldsen holed a birdie putt to restore the buffer. Victor Dubuisson’s birdie at the par-three 15th propelled France to just one shot back.
And this time Olesen answered with a 7-foot putt, playing three holes behind the French, to ward off the leaderboard danger.
While Kjeldsen and Olesen weren’t threatened by US pair Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker, Sweden’s Alex Noren and David Lingmerth did move to within a shot — after firing a brilliant 10-under 62 to eventually finish fifth at 15-under. But nobody could catch the Danes.
Olesen’s hot putter delivered birdies at Nos. 13, 14 and 15 to restore the leaderboard buffer. He also rolled in a curling 30-foot birdie putt on the 18th.
“The psychology (of a team) is really interesting to me. When you get a guy like this, on the back nine you feel you want to die for this guy,” Kjeldsen said of Olesen. “I’ve never felt that before and that team thing is amazing.”
In golf terms, the Danish pair formed an odd couple. Olesen loves to keep check of leaderboards around the course and Kjeldsen tries to avoid them.
“We play different games, we don’t talk much and just play our shots and that’s helpful,” Olesen said.
Sweden, who started the fourball final round nine shots back, could only ponder what might have been with a more polished foursomes effort than the tardy third round 73.
“We really played quite solid (on Saturday) and ended up bogeying a couple of the last four holes. So, 1-over yesterday could have been a couple under and we would have really been in the mix. But finishing on a good note today, we’re not going to dwell on the last few days. It has been a fun week,” Lingmerth said.
Italy’s Francesco Molinari and Matteo Manassero reeled off an 8-under 64, but they were just too far back to get a glimpse of the leaders.
“We gave ourselves a lot of birdie chances and it could have been a really low one. It was a low one with a good finish, so we’re happy about that,” Manassero said.
“Obviously, Francesco gave me the opportunity to play and we had a lot of fun. I think this is a great format and, obviously, you’re representing your country.”
Host nation Australia at least gave their home galleries a sub-par salute in a polished round built on several pinpoint approach shots from Marc Leishman before Adam Scott rifled one to almost tap-in range at the par-three 15th. They eventually deliver a 7-under 65 to finish on 11 under and tied ninth with Ireland.
“It was nice to finally see a few putts drop and some red numbers on the leaderboard. It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t start that on Thursday,” Leishman said.
Wales pair Bradley Dredge and Stuart Manley, in the first group onto the course, redeemed themselves after Saturday’s horror 80 with a flawless 9-under 63.
England’s Chris Wood and Andy Sullivan, who tumbled down the leaderboard after a leaky back nine on Saturday, also bounced back with a 7-under 65.
Germany’s Alex Cejka and Stephan Jaeger, equal last in the 28-team competition at the halfway mark, hit back with a closing 64 to finish on 9 under and tied 13th.