SHENZHEN, China – Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy shot an 8-under 64 in fourball Saturday, but Ireland’s lead over defending champion Sweden and Italy shrunk to one stroke at the World Cup.
Sweden’s Robert Karlsson and Henrik Stenson had a 10-under 62 and the Italian brothers Edoardo and Francesco Molinari shot an 11-under 61 at the Mission Hills Golf Club, cutting into Ireland’s three-stroke lead at the $5.5 million tournament in the southern Chinese city of Dongguan.
McDowell had five birdies, while McIlroy carded three for Ireland, which had a total 26-under 190 in its bid to win a third World Cup.
Those three teams appear to be the only contenders heading into Sunday’s final round of fourballs – a more demanding alternate-shot format rather than the best-ball foursomes Saturday.
“Barring any disaster in the foursomes, I can’t see any other teams but the top three winning,” McDowell said.
McIlroy added that taking the cup back to Ireland would be the biggest highlight of his golfing career.
“You know, it’s very special to win an event, but to win it with a partner and to win it with a friend would make it even more special,” he said.
The Swedes, who were paired with Ireland on Saturday, will play with the South Africans in Sunday’s final round, and were happy that they would start before the Irish, who will play with Italy.
“I am glad that we are not in the final group,” Stenson said. “We have a chance to steal a march on the guys behind us and that’s what we will be trying to do.”
Japan (64) and South Africa (62) were both seven strokes back, while Wales (64) and England (63) were eight strokes off the lead.
South Korea’s Charlie Wi and Y.E. Yang were on the only other team to fire an 11-under 61, a huge improvement over their woeful 75 in the second round. But the Koreans were 10 strokes off the lead along with India (65), Argentina (64) and Australia (62).
Yang had seven birdies while Wi added four.
“I played well on the front nine and Charlie played better on the back nine. We both clicked at the right times,” said Yang, who became the first Asian-born man to win one of golf’s majors when he beat Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship in August.
Americans Nick Watney and John Merrick (67) were 16 shots behind, along with Scotland’s David Drysdale and Alastair Forsyth, who shot a 64.