Ireland Shares Top Spot in Spain

By Sports NetworkNovember 18, 2004, 5:00 pm
04 WGC-EMC World CupSEVILLE, Spain -- The team of Martin Wiegele and Markus Brier from Austria fired a 12-under-par 60 on Thursday to share the lead with Ireland's Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley after the first round of the World Golf Championships - World Cup.
The English duo of Paul Casey and Luke Donald, both of whom represented Europe at this year's Ryder Cup, posted an 11-under-par 61 in the opening round at Real Club de Golf Sevilla.
Thursday's opening round, which, thanks to a frost delay, prompted officials to send groups off both the first and 10th tees, was contested in a best-ball format. Play will also be in that format on Saturday, while Friday and Sunday's rounds will be alternate-shot.
Austria, playing in this event for the first time, recorded nine birdies in its first 13 holes, including seven by Wiegele and two from Brier. When Ireland started to pull away, the Austrian tandem matched them.
At the 14th, Brier played his second shot inside four feet to set up birdie and go to minus-10. Two holes later, Brier rolled in a 4-footer for birdie to get within one of Ireland's lead.
Wiegele found the fairway off the tee at the last, then hit his approach to 5 feet. He sank the putt to match Ireland atop the leaderboard, which was impressive on many levels.
First, Austria did not even qualify for the event, missing the mark by three strokes in a qualifying event last month in Mexico. When Thailand withdrew, the Austrian team got the call and they responded.
Also, the Irish team features Harrington, ranked eighth in the world, and McGinly, 67th. This pairing won this event in 1997 at Kiawah Island and teamed together in previous Ryder Cups. Brier is currently ranked 211th in the world, while Wiegele comes in at No. 533.
'We missed out by three shots then heard a few days later from The European Tour that we were in,' said Brier. 'It wasn't too expensive a trip as the Austrian Federation organized the air fares and the tournament covered the accommodation costs. We also had the additional benefit of getting experience at foursomes and fourballs, even though we missed out on a qualifying place.'
The Ireland team broke into red figures early when McGinley holed a bunker shot for birdie at the second hole. The team added five more birdies on the front side, but made their move up the leaderboard with some fine iron play by Harrington.
Harrington knocked his approach to 4 feet to set up birdie at the 11th. McGinley holed a 10-footer for birdie at the 12th, although Harrington had half that distance.
On the par-5 13th, McGinley hit his second into a greenside bunker and holed out again, this time for an eagle to take the team to 10 under par for the tournament.
Harrington sank a 7-foot birdie putt at the 14th and McGinley took over on the par-5 16th. His fairway-metal approach rolled to 10 fee, but McGinley missed the eagle putt. He tapped in for birdie, but the Irish team wasted opportunities at 18. Each player missed from 15 feet to allow Austria to catch them.
'We got going early on,' said Harrington. 'Everything was going nicely and the momentum was with us. When you're getting a few good breaks and you're playing well on top of that, you're going to shoot 12 under.'
Shigeki Maruyama and Hidemichi Tanaka from Japan are alone in fourth place at 10-under-par 62. Maruyama won this title two years ago with Toshi Izawa in Mexico.
Host country Spain, represented by Sergio Garcia and Miguel Angel Jimenez, overcame a sluggish start to go 6 under on the back nine. They finished the first round in fifth place at 9-under-par 63.
The United States team of Scott Verplank and Bob Tway posted an 8-under- par 64 and are tied for sixth place with Germany (Kariem Baraka & Marcel Siem), Australia (Stephen Leaney & Nick O'Hern), Sweden (Fredrik Jacobson & Joakim Haeggman), Denmark (Anders Hansen & Soren Kjeldsen) and Scotland (Alastair Forsyth & Scott Drummond).
Defending champions South Africa, represented by Rory Sabbatini and Trevor Immelman, posted a 6-under-par 66 and are alone in 15th place.
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