By Bernie McGuire in Abu Dhabi
It was while enjoying a BBQ steak and downing an ice cold beer on the new terrace, and under the eyes of the stunning falcon clubhouse that overlooks the Abu Dhabi course, that the dozen Hero Cup players learned who they were being paired with and also their rivals for the opening Foursomes match of the 2023 Hero Cup.
Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald named Shane Lowry and GB&I captain Tommy Fleetwood to lead off first in the Foursomes format.
Lowry and Fleetwood are former winners on the National course with Lowry capturing the 2019 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship title while Fleetwood won back-to-back in 2017 and 2018 and will tee-up at 7.05am (Irish time Friday) against the Europeans Alex Noren of Sweden and Thomas Pieters of Belgium.
Seamus Power will team with top-ranked Scot Bob MacIntyre in the last match of the day, teeing-off at 8.05am (Irish time). They’ll tackle Poland’s Adrian Meronk and Austrian-born Sepp Straka.
Meronk is coming off his brilliant Australian Open victory late last year while Power and Straka travelled together from Hawaii via Dallas and onto nearby Dubai after contesting last week’s PGA Tour Sentry Tournament of Champions.
As pointed out, players were not aware of the pairings until well into the Pro-Am BBQ dinner on the new Falcon Terrace while also attending the evening were the Hero Cup caddies, official guests, those who played in the Pro-Am and everyone and anyone who works on the DP World Tour, including Scot Alistair Scott who is the Tour’s official starter.
“I have no idea who I am paired with or who I will be playing against”, said Power ahead of the formal part of the evening.
Power had met MacIntyre for the first time on Tuesday after they played a first official practice round, with Lowry making it a three-ball. At Power’s suggestion, the trio played a 100 Dirham (25 Euros) skins match with Power pocketing the 200 Dirham cash with nine winning holes to MacIntyre’s seven while Lowry failed to score.
And Power and MacIntyre clearly got on well as evident with the normally reserved Scot joining Power joking and laughing, and also taking the proverbial out of Lowry for much of the round.
Power then paid MacIntyre, who last played in a full team event at the 2017 Walker Cup, a huge compliment when asked if there was someone in the GB&I team who you nominate to hole a 10-foot putt come Sunday afternoon that would win the gleaming new silver trophy.
“I’d not met or played with Bob before this week but his putting when we played on Wednesday was pure, so my choice would be him,” said Power.
As for Lowry, he and his wife Wendy are best of friends with the Fleetwood’s, Tommy and wife Clare, so he could not ask for a better round pairing.
“It’s a great pairing and Tommy and I just get on so well,” said Lowry.
“We’ve played plenty of practice rounds together, we’ve got our names on the Abu Dhabi HSBC trophy, we played in the Whistling Straits Ryder Cup and our respective wives have become good friends.
“So, I’m looking forward to it. You know, after the last Ryder Cup, I felt like I was very disappointed, so you feel like you’ve got a long two years to wait till the next one.
“When this tournament was announced, I certainly felt like I want to be a part of it because I feel like obviously I want to be a part of Luke’s team in Rome, and I feel like if this gives me any little bit of an edge in Rome if I’m there, I need to be here playing here.
“Nice to be here. Great way to start the year and I’m looking forward to hopefully a good, competitive week”.
All 20 players will be competing on day one ahead of two rounds on Saturday and then the traditional Sunday Singles, and with a total of 25 points up for grabs.
Hero Cup – Friday 13th January
Abu Dhabi GC / Fourballs (Times Irish)
GB&I -v- Europe
7.05am Tommy Fleetwood (C)/Shane Lowry -v- Alex Noren/Thomas Pieters
7.20am Tyrrell Hatton/Jordan Smith -v- Antoine Rozner/Thomas Detry
7.35am Callum Shinkwin/Matt Wallace -v- Guido Migliozzi/Victor Perez
7.50am Ewen Ferguson/Richard Mansell -v- Francesco Molinari (C)/Nicolai Hojgaard
8.05am Bob MacIntyre/Seamus Power -v- Adrian Meronk/Sepp Straka