Denmark's Soren Kjeldsen, left, shakes hands with compatriot Thorbjorn Olesen on the 18th green following their match at the World Cup of Golf at Kingston Heath in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Brownbill)
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Denmark's Soren Kjeldsen and Thorbjorn Olesen launched an astonishing sub-par blitz on Friday to power into the lead after the second round of the World Cup of Golf.
Astonishing because the 12-under par 60 was crafted in southwesterly winds that were even stronger than the opening day at Kingston Heath.
The Danes took turns to chip in for eagle in a brilliant front nine of 29, six under par, as they combined superbly in the best-ball format. They reeled off five consecutive birdies on the homeward nine before Kjeldsen holed another birdie putt on the 18th green to put the stamp on the sensational round.
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Denmark's taming of the wind-swept 6503-meter (7111-yard) layout handed them a three-stroke lead ahead of China, with Spain one further back at the halfway mark of the tournament.
Olesen said an eagle and a round of 59 was on his mind when he bombed a 369-meter drive down the 418-meter final hole. And yet it was Kjeldsen's touch on the fast green that delivered the last birdie.
''I'm like a train, I arrive on time. He's the flashy one with an amazing game,'' Kjeldsen said.
''This is my favorite type of golf. You've got to control the ball and look at the angles. You don't just get up and whack it, you've got to think your way around.''
United States pair Ricky Fowler and Jimmy Walker shot a five-under 67 to be in a four-nation tie for fourth, five shots behind the Danes heading into Saturday's foursomes.
The American pair underlined the teamwork required in the fourball – the best score counts for each hole – with vastly contrasting efforts at the par-four eighth into the face of the strong wind.
Walker's tee shot found a fairway bunker, he barely advanced the ball buried in long grass and promptly picked it up after the fourth shot scurried across the green. He had the luxury of standing back and applauding when Fowler's 15-meter birdie putt disappeared into the cup to pick up another shot for the team.
A measure of the quality of the players were the clutch of low scores in such cold and blustery conditions – a 60, two 64s, four 65s and seven 66s in the 28-nations field.
New Zealand and the Netherlands, the third group on to the course, went birdie for birdie in a low-scoring shootout, each team posting eight-under 64s to be five-under for the tournament and in contention for the weekend.
The Dutch strategy was typical of most teams; the less experienced Darius Van Driel teeing off first to put the ball safely in play, allowing Joost Luiten to bomb his drives to try to set up shorter approach shots to the quickening greens.
''That worked out really well. Darius hit great off the tee all day, so we didn't really get into any trouble. After that, we just tried to find the green and hole the putt and we did that pretty good today,'' Luiten said.
New Zealand's Ryan Fox and Danny Lee snared 10 birdies against two bogeys as all players in the group fed off each other in the four-pronged attack. ''Joost looked like he was going to hole everything he looked at. It was a fun day all round,'' Fox said.
Host nation Australia's representatives Adam Scott and Marc Leishman must go low in Saturday's foursomes to get close enough to the lead to challenge for the win on Sunday. The pair shared six birdies, but gave two shots back mid-round, for their 68 to be two-under and 10 strokes off the pace.
''Our best stuff needs to be on the weekend now,'' Scott said. ''You never know, it's a tough format. Doesn't mean the leaders are going to play any good over the weekend, so, hopefully, we can close the gap.''
Scots Russell Knox and Duncan Stewart, embarrassed to sit bottom of the leaderboard after an eight-over 78 on the opening day, set about restoring temporarily tarnished reputations. Out in the first group, they grabbed an early birdie before Stewart eagled the par-five eighth hole. And three birdies on the back nine produced a seven-under 65; a 13-shot improvement.