Captain Tommy Fleetwood sounded confident his GB&I side can lift the new gleaming silver Hero Cup trophy despite heading into the Sunday Singles trailing by two points in Abu Dhabi.
Rival captain Francesco Molinari continues to lead by example in steering his Continental European team to an 8 ½ to 6 ½ advantage over the National Course here at Abu Dhabi GC.
Europe has led every session from 3 ½ to 2 ½ on Friday and advancing to 5 ½ to 4 ½ after the Saturday morning Foursomes before opening-up a two-point lead post the afternoon Foursomes to head to the final series of matches at 8 ½ to 6 ½ points.
“We win the first two games tomorrow and it’s all level,” Fleetwood declared. “That’s what we’ve got to focus on. It’s been a very high standard so far and we’ve just got to keep focusing on that. We’ve been behind all week and, if we can get off to a fast start in the singles and try and build momentum to get level with them and past them, that would be a really big deal to start with.
“Of course, there are times when it could go either way. You look at Shane and Tyrrell’s match, with Thomas [Detry] holing a monster putt at 17 as they finish birdie-birdie, which you can’t do anything about. But, if the match goes the other way, it’s a tied game and we’d have had a very good day. “So, it’s very, very close and I am proud of the guys. Richard and Ewen led the team off all day and did an amazing job and also proud of Bob and Seamus anchoring the team this afternoon. Everybody’s attitude has been great”.
Fleetwood elected to again team Seamus Power and Robert MacIntyre after their great bonding during Friday’s 4 & 3 Fourballs demolition of Adrian Meronk and Sepp Straka. However, Europeans Victor Perez and Guido hadn’t read the script handing out a 2&1 defeat.
The match was all-square through five holes thanks to five pars before Europe put the foot down winning six, seven and eight with pars after their Scottish/Irish rivals bogeyed six, conceded seven and also bogeyed eight. The ‘good guys’ won their only hole with a birdie at 10 but their rivals responded with a birdie ‘2’ also with their first winning birdie at the par-3 12th.
First points on the board in the afternoon went to Europe with Molinari and late replacement Nicolai Hojgaard undefeated in three rounds, handing out a 2 & 1 defeat to Scot Ewen Ferguson and Richard Mansell for the Europeans to be now two points clear. GB&I made it 6 ½ points apiece with Callum Shinkwin and Matt Wallace winning 2 & 1 over Adrian Meronk and Antoine Rozner moments ahead of Tommy Fleetwood and teammate Jordan Smith winning by the same margin over Thomas Pieters and Alex Noren.
Disappointingly Shane Lowry has yet to savour success, and on the course where he captured the 2019 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and being on the losing side of both Foursomes matches including he and Tyrrell Hatton being handed a 1up defeat by Thomas Detry and Sepp Straka. Detry holed a monster 40-putt birdie putt on 17 to take GB & I back to 1up and with each team having the last with birdies.
And Molinari, who along with Hojgaard have 2 1/2 points from a possible three, sounded also the confidence he has in his European side, “The team is on the right path and with 10 points on offer tomorrow, it’s still all to play for”, said Molinari. “The boys have done great and it’s been honestly a real pleasure for me in getting to know them better in spending quality time with them both on and off the golf course.
“Even though this week is not the Ryder Cup, winning or losing makes all the difference on how you are going to feel at the end of the week.
“Personally, it’s been a great week for me with the Tour having done a great job in organising this week while having Jose Maria here along with Paul McGinley and with Sam Torrance speaking last night, it’s been great to have so many good vibes at this event. “I know the younger guys in particular have enjoyed hearing so many good Ryder Cup stories”.
If the Continental Europeans win later today (Sunday), and with the Hero Cup replacing the similar format Seve Trophy that ran from 2000 to 2013, it will be just a third occasion they’ve beaten a GB&I side. Europe under Seve’s captaincy won the opening encounter at Sunningdale near Tour HQ in Surrey, and the 2013 version outside of Versailles in France.
Sunday Singles Matches
Francesco MOLINARI v Shane LOWRY
Thomas PIETERS v Tommy FLEETWOOD
Antoine ROZNER v Tyrrell HATTON
Nicolai HØJGAARD v Seamus POWER
Thomas DETRY v Matt WALLACE
Adrian MERONK v Callum SHINKWIN
Victor PEREZ v Jordan SMITH
Sepp STRAKA v Ewen FERGUSON
Alex NOREN v Robert MACINTYRE
Guido MIGLIOZZI v Richard MANSELL