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There was a moment on the back nine of yesterday’s final round where Belgians Thomas Pieters and Thomas Detry, five shot leaders at the start of play, might have been about to call in countryman Hercule Poirot to investigate how Australia were about to steal the World Cup of Golf from under their very noses.
In the midst of a day-long charge, Mark Leishman inexplicably left the Australian ball in a greenside bunker on the par five 14th, only to see a nerveless Cameron Smith hole his bunker shot for a very unlikely birdie. Brilliant stuff.
Smith’s shot ignited an enormous roar that reverberated to all corners of the Metropolitan Golf Club, and jolted the Belgians, whose lead had now been cut to just two nervous shots.
Minutes later, Leishman superbly saved par on 15 after his approach shot had skewed into a tree branch, and then when Smith clipped his approach at 16 to within a couple of feet, the excitement was palpable.
But disappointingly, Leishman’s tentative nudge slipped wide, and all of the air rushed out of Australia’s tyres. Their momentum was gone, the Belgians drew breath and Poirot was no longer required. Detry celebrated early by nailing a huge drive up 18, and their finishing birdie iced the cake on a fully deserved three-shot victory, at 23-under.
Afterwards, Pieters and Detry spoke not of the US$1,120,000 they each pocketed for their four days work, but their long-standing friendship since age eight, attending high school together and playing in the same junior events, before attending college in the US.
It was not as though they had a mortgage on mateship – you could sense the great warmth and genuine friendship within each team and camaraderie within the rest of the field – the players clearly enjoying the opportunity to play a different format, representing their country, on a great golf course.
Leishman and Smith were delighted with their efforts too, Smith in particular placing himself squarely in the sights of Presidents Cup, International Team captain, Ernie Els, for selection in next years’ event.
Els himself was unfortunate mid-afternoon, to be corralled into a PR ‘opportunity’ with Australia’s ‘Fanatics’. It didn’t look like Ernie’s idea of an opportunity just quietly, the time-honoured chant of ‘Internationals internationals oi oi oi’ needing more than a little bit of work.
And what about Mexico, sharing second place with Australia, at 20-under? Abraham Ancer has been a revelation this last fortnight, his unflappable demeanour matching a silky smooth swing. But foursomes is the ultimate team game, where both partners simply must contribute, Roberto Diaz doing just that and making a lie of his world ranking of 742.
Elsewhere, some of the favoured challengers petered wafted out of the tournament, England managing only a two-under 70 for eighth place, Korea also signing for a 70, and sixth equal.
New Zealand’s big-hitting Ryan Fox never hit his straps, struggling all week to make sense of the reachable par fives – meat and drink to the teams at the top of the leaderboard.
Defending champions Denmark, with Soren Kjeldsen and Thorbjorn Olesen again representing, never really looked like repeating, but the tournament and the format clearly agrees with them – fourth equal being nice reward for their weeks’ work.
With the sun finally peeking through on Sunday afternoon, the galleries swelled, finally giving the event a sense of gravitas and importance that had been lacking prior.
Inevitably, Metropolitan was a star too, its greens neutered by the rain, but nevertheless with enough downhill putts to keep players on their toes at all times, and lush couch fairways you could eat your lunch off.
Or your Belgian waffles.