MELBOURNE, Australia — Denmark fought off a three-pronged attack to win the ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf at Kingston Heath on Sunday.
Soren Kjeldsen and Thorbjorn Olesen held their nerve after watching a four-shot overnight lead threatened by China, France and Sweden.
The pair combined superbly in the best-ball format for a closing six-under 66 to finish on 20-under 268, four shots clear of China (65), France (63) and the United States (66).
Simply, Kjeldsen, 41, and Olesen, 26, answered every challenge, taking turns to nail critical birdie putts every time the lead was whittled back by the chasers.
“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. A Victor Dubuisson 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.
The American duo of Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker played against Team Denmark in the final group. They never really pressured them, however, as they weren’t able to get closer than within two strokes of the Dames.
Sweden’s Alex Noren and David Lingmerth playing four groups ahead, also crept within a shot after firing a brilliant 10-under 62 to eventually finish fifth at 15-under. But no-one could overhaul the Danes.
Olesen’s hot putter delivered birdies at the 13th, 14th and 15th holes to restore the leaderboard buffer. Fittingly, the younger member of the team, who turns 27 in three weeks, gave himself an early birthday treat by rolling in a curling 30 feet birdie putt on the 18th green.
Kjeldsen was effusive in his praise of his younger partner. “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. I’ve never felt that before and that team thing is amazing,” he said.
In golf terms, the Danish pair are 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.
It was Denmark’s first World Cup triumph after Thomas Bjorn and Olesen finished third behind at nearby Royal Melbourne in 2013.
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, one-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 eight-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. It’s an amazing field and we had a great time.”
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 to eventually deliver a seven-under 65 to finish on -11 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 on to the course, redeemed themselves after Saturday’s horror 80 with a flawless nine-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 seven-under 65 and 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 and tied 13th.
Canadians David Hearn and Adam Hadwin moved up the leaderboard on Saturday with a 69 in the foursomes format but were too far back to challenge the leaders. They closed with a 66 in the four ball on Sunday to share 11th spot.