Thomas Pieters and Thomas Detry held off Mexico and a charging Australia to win Belgium’s first ever golf World Cup by three shots in a “dream come true” Sunday.
The pair began the final day of foursomes action, where teammates take it in turns to play the same ball, with a five-stroke lead at Melbourne’s Metropolitan Golf Club.
But Australia’s Mark Leishman and Cameron Smith narrowed the gap to two coming down the home straight with three birdies in a row, and Mexico’s Abraham Ancer and Roberto Diaz were also closing in.
In a tense finale, the Belgians restored a three-stroke lead with a birdie on the 16th but a nervy bogey on the next meant they had to keep their cool on the final hole.
A perfect approach shot eased the pressure and they holed out for a closing 68 and a 23-under-par win, with Australia and Mexico joint second.
Danish defending champions Thorbjorn Olesen and Soren Kjeldsen carded a 65 to tie for fourth alongside Canada’s Adam Hadwin and Nick Taylor, six behind Belgium. Greece finished last from the 28 teams.
The Irish duo of Shane Lowry and Paul Dunne just scraped their way into the top ten despite shooting a Sunday 71. Rounds of 64 and 65 on Thursday and Saturday respectively went a long way towards ensuring a quality finish at -12 overall.
“It’s a dream come true to play it, let alone win it,” said Detry, 25, after pocketing the biggest cheque of his short two-year professional career.
“It was a huge thrill to play with Thomas (Pieters). We were on a college team (University of Illinois) together as amateurs in the US and we are great friends.”
The win earned the pair US$1.12 million each and a maiden World Cup crown for their country, although Ryder Cup player Flory Van Donck captured the individual title in 1960.
The more established Pieters, a three-time European Tour winner and Ryder Cup player, said that winning the World Cup was not something players normally have on their bucket list.
“But when it happens it feels every bit as good as winning an individual event,” said the 26-year-old.
“We’ll both gain a lot of confidence out of this. We felt Australia coming behind us and we answered.”
Australia’s Leishman said that despite not winning, he and Smith were happy to make a fight of it and congratulated Belgium for being “the best team all week”.
“They (Belgium) didn’t really give us a chance. We took it to them and played good and made it interesting,” he said. “It’s a pity that we weren’t a couple of shots better, but we put up a good fight.”
© Agence France-Presse (additional edits from Chris Kelleher)