Continental Europe take slender advantage into Day 2 of Hero Cup in Abu Dhabi

First day of inaugural event was a tightly contested affair, finishing 3-2 to Europe against Great Britain

Thomas Pieters and Alex Noren of Continental Europe celebrate beating Tommy Fleetwood and Shane Lowry of Great Britain & Ireland during the Fourball matches of the Hero Cup at Abu Dhabi Golf Club on Friday, January 13, 2023. Getty
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Continental Europe hold a one-point lead over Great Britain and Ireland following the first day of the inaugural Hero Cup in Abu Dhabi.

The European side, captained by Francesco Molinari, took the Friday fourball session 3-2 at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, with Thomas Pieters and Alex Noren getting the first point on the board in the tournament’s opening match.

The pair defeated Tommy Fleetwood – the GB&I captain – and Shane Lowry, winning the match on the final hole after it was all square going down 18.

In the second pairing, Thomas Detry and Antonie Rozner saw off Tyrrell Hatton and Jordan Smith 2-up, before the final match of the day concluded early when Seamus Power and Robert MacIntyre defeated Sepp Straka and Adrian Meronk 4&3.

In between, Victor Perez and Guido Migliozzi halved their match with Callum Shinkwin and Matt Wallace, while Ewan Ferguson and Richard Mansell ended the session with a share of the spoils also, against Molinari and Nicolai Hojgaard.

“I think it was a good team performance on the first day,” said Fleetwood, no doubt glad with the score after his side trailed at one stage in four of the five matches. “I think, in the end, to get out of that session 3-2 we’ll definitely go back to our team rooms feeling the better.

“I just said to the guys I trust them to get something out of it at the last and be very tough coming down that last hole.

“It was very close, and there’s a long way to go, but happy that we all got our first competitive round of the year out of the way. I think we’ve established what this team competition is really about, and to get the adrenaline flowing down those last holes was great.”

Fleetwood and Lowry fought back from three down with nine holes to play before Noren’s birdie on the par-five 18th sealed a narrow win, while Detry and Rozner also prevailed on the last.

Meanwhile, MacIntyre and Power were 10-under par for the day, with Wallace and Mansell both birdieing 18 to earn a half in their respective matches.

Molinari, who alongside Fleetwood took four wins as a pair at the 2018 Ryder Cup, said: “I’m really, really happy and proud of how we started today. My guys did amazing.

“Obviously it’s a long way to go, but it’s always nice winning a day, winning a session. The challenge tomorrow is two sessions, so you need to be mentally ready for that.”

Two sets of five foursomes matches will be played on the National Course on Saturday, with 10 singles on Sunday. All 20 players take part in each session.

The Hero Cup, which effectively replaces the Seve Trophy that ran between 2000 and 2013, will be used primarily to give potential European Ryder Cup players a taste of the format. This week’s event is overseen by Luke Donald, the European captain for this year’s Ryder Cup, which takes place in Rome from September 29-October 1.

Updated: January 13, 2023, 3:15 PM
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