Continental Europe won the first two matches of the day before securing a narrow 3-2 lead over Great Britain and Ireland against after the opening session of fourballs matches at the Hero Cup, a new team matchplay tournament that is being held at Abu Dhabi Golf Club this week.
Belgium’s Thomas Pieters and Swede Alex Noren defeated GB&I Captain Tommy Fleetwood and Ireland’s Shane Lowry 1up in a thrilling opening clash at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
The Continental Europe pairing were 3up at the turn before Fleetwood and Lowry fought back to all square through 15 holes, but Noren – a man with a history of holing important putts on the final hole – rolled in a birdie on the 18th to secure the first point for his side.
Belgian Thomas Detry and France’s Antoine Rozner were two down against English duo Tyrrell Hatton and Jordan Smith after four holes, but recovered well to secure a 2up victory, with Detry finishing in a style with an eagle at the last to celebrate his 30th birthday.
Italy’s Guido Migliozzi and Frenchman Victor Perez, representing Continental Europe, secured a half against the second all-English pairing of Callum Shinkwin and Matt Wallace in a match of high quality, while Robert MacIntyre and Séamus Power secured the largest margin of victory on day one, defeating Poland’s Adrian Meronk and Austrian Sepp Straka 4&3 to earn GB&I’s first winning point.
With the final match finishing after 15 holes, it was left to Continental Europe Captain Francesco Molinari and Denmark’s Nicolai Højgaard to try and extend their team’s lead, however Richard Mansell matched Højgaard’s closing birdie to ensure the Englishman and Scotland’s Ewen Ferguson closed day one with a half.
Tommy Fleetwood said: “I think it was a good team performance on the first day. I know we would loved to have finished the day and been the right side of the scoreboard and been up. Unbelievable really that four matches go down the last. Just shows how close the teams are in terms of levels.
“I think in the end, to get out of that session 3-2, we’ll definitely go back to our team rooms feeling the better, and the guys, I just said to the guys, that’s why those guys are at the back, trust them to get something out of it at the last and be very tough coming down that last hole.”
Francesco Molinari added “I’m really happy and proud of how we started today. I think obviously a lot of tight matches which is good for Luke [Donald] and his Ryder Cup vice captains to see. My guys did amazing. Obviously it’s a nice start, long way to go but it’s always nice winning a day, winning a session.”
To see all the scores and a live leaderboard from the Hero Cup, click here.