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Molinari, Fleetwood lead the way as Hero Cup heads for tight finish

Molinari, Fleetwood lead the way as Hero Cup heads for tight finish

A member of three Ryder Cup-winning teams, Europe skipper Molinari, 40, and young team-mate Nicolai Hojgaard, 21, won both their Foursomes matches on Saturday

Continental Europe's Thomas Pieters and Alex Noren wait alongside Tommy Fleetwood and Shane Lowry of Great Britain and Ireland ahead of the first Hero Cup fourballs at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club on Friday. Image courtesy Getty Images Continental Europe's Thomas Pieters and Alex Noren wait alongside Tommy Fleetwood and Shane Lowry of Great Britain and Ireland ahead of the first Hero Cup fourballs at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club on Friday. Image courtesy Getty Images

Ryder Cup veteran Francesco Molinari led the way with an unbeaten display as Continental Europe opened up a two-point advantage over Great Britain and Ireland after two days of the Hero Cup in Abu Dhabi.

A member of three Ryder Cup-winning teams, Europe skipper Molinari, 40, and young team-mate Nicolai Hojgaard, 21, won both their Foursomes matches on Saturday. Along with their half point of the first day, the pair was unbeaten and has so far contributed two and a half points out of a possible three.

Scores were tied in the morning foursomes with both teams taking two and a half points each. In the afternoon session it was still level going until the unbeaten Robert MacIntyre and Seamus Power went down 2&1 to the French-Italian combine of Victor Perez and Guido Migliozzi.

That gave Continental Europe a 3-2 win in the session and the overall score to eight and a half against six and a half points for GB&I.

Ten singles matches will be contested on Sunday.

The points provided by Molinari and Hojgaard thus helped Continental Europe stretch their overnight one-point lead to two over the Tommy Fleetwood-led opposition.

Contests continued to be tight on Saturday with no match finishing earlier than 16 holes and only one ending earlier on the first day.

Fleetwood played a key role in keeping his team’s deficit to a manageable level as he teamed with Tyrrell Hatton in the morning and then Jordan Smith in the afternoon to win both Foursomes.

Fleetwood/Hatton first beat Sepp Straka and Thomas Detry in the morning before Fleetwood/Smith got past the till-then unbeaten Thomas Pieters and Alex Noren 2&1 in the afternoon’s top match. The afternoon win was also a revenge of sorts for Fleetwood, who with Lowry, had been beaten by Pieters/Noren in the opening match of the week.

Molinari was all praise for Hojgaard: "I'm super, super impressed. It's been great to be out with him. Great attitude. I couldn't be happier.

“Win the first two games tomorrow and it’s all level. That’s what we’ve got to focus on. It’s been a very high standard so far. We’ve been behind all week and, if we can get off to a fast start in the singles and build momentum to get level with them and past them, that would be a really big deal to start with.”

On his own two wins, Fleetwood added, “There’s always individual pride when you get your own point and I’m happy about that. I loved playing with both Tyrrell and Jordan and was happy with how I performed with those guys.”

Also winning full points in both sessions were Perez and Migliozzi, who is eyeing a Ryder Cup spot in his home country, Italy, in September. The Perez-Migliozzi pairing put in a strong showing beating Irishmen Lowry and Power 3&2 in the morning and then Power and Scotsman MacIntyre in the afternoon.

Lowry, the highest world-ranked player at the Hero Cup at 20th, has lost all his matches.

Day 2 Results: Continental Europe 8.5 points, Great Britain/Ireland 6.5

Morning Foursomes: Cont Eur 2 ½ - GB&I 2 ½

Pieters/ Noren (Cont Eur) tied Ferguson/ Mansell

Straka/ Detry (Cont Eur) lost to Fleetwood/ Hatton 1 hole

Molinari/ Hojgaard (Cont Eur) bt Shinkwin/ Wallace 3&1

Rozner/ Meronk (Cont Eur) lost to Smith/ MacIntyre 1 hole

Perez/ Migliozzi (Cont Eur) bt Lowry/ Power 3&2

Afternoon Foursomes: Cont Eur 3 - GB & I 2

Pieters/ Noren (Cont Eur) lost to Fleetwood/ Smith (GB&I) 2&1

Molinari/ Hojgaard (:Cont Eur) bt Ferguson/ Mansell (GB&I) 2&1

Rozner/ Meronk (Cont Eur) lost to Shinkwin/ Wallace (GB&I) 2&1

Straka/ Detry (Cont Eur) bt Lowry/ Hatton (GB&I) 1 hole

Perez/ Migliozzi (Cont Eur) bt Power/ MacIntyre (GB&I) 2&1

Results - Day 1 fourballs (Europe lead 3-2)

Noren/Pieters (Cont Eur) bt Fleetwood/Lowry (GBI) 1-up

Rozner/Detry (Cont Eur) bt Hatton/Smith (GBI) 2-up

Shinkwin/Wallace (GBI) tied Migliozzi/Perez (Cont Eur)

Ferguson/Mansell (GBI) tied Molinari/Højgaard (Cont Eur)

Macintyre/Power (GBI) bt Meronk/Straka (Cont Eur) 4&3

Published on: Jan 17, 2023, 4:54 PM IST
Posted by: Priya Raghuvanshi, Jan 17, 2023, 4:43 PM IST