By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Thomas Pieters and Thomas Detry staged a wet weather clinic at the World Cup of Golf on Friday to give Belgium a share of the lead with South Korea, as the top nations floundered through atrocious conditions during the second round.
Amid howling wind and driving rain at Metropolitan Golf Club, the unfancied Belgians were mostly seamless in the foursomes, shooting a one-under 71 to move to a 10-under total of 134.
“It was just like horizontal rain,” Detry told reporters. “So wind got up, wind didn’t drop, so it was just a tough day all round.
“I’m excited for my shower tonight.”
Overnight co-leaders South Korea were almost as impressive, with Kim Si-woo and An Byeong-hun combining for a 72, as only four teams in the 28-nation field scored under par.
Belgium and South Korea held a two-stroke lead over England (74), Italy (71), India (72) and Malaysia (73), who were all on eight-under.
A tournament touted as a gathering of top golf nations bordered on farce at times, as players trudged through puddles and bashed their way through thickets after spraying errant shots into trees.
Joint overnight leaders Australia stumbled to six-over by the 12th hole, the duo of Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith spending much of their day trying to mop up each other’s mistakes.
The pair rallied with three consecutive birdies from the 14th to remain in contention four strokes off the pace.
Thrashed by Europe at the recent Ryder Cup, the United States’ struggles in team events continued as Matt Kuchar and Kyle Stanley crashed to a seven-over 79 to fall 11 strokes behind the leaders, their title hopes all but shot.
With no let-up in the rain, tempers frayed.
English firebrand Tyrrell Hatton smashed a tee marker to smithereens with his driver after shanking into the trees at the par-four 10th.
His playing partner Ian Poulter played superbly to limit the damage, however, keeping England’s hopes of a third World Cup title alive.
Far lower down the leaderboard, Greece’s Peter Karmis and Alexander Tranacher, who qualified after Austria pulled out of the tournament, had a nightmare day.
They staggered back to the clubhouse after a 15-over round of 87, featuring three triple-bogeys on the back nine.
(Editing by John O’Brien)