Hero Cup: Continental Europe hold narrow lead over GB&I in Abu Dhabi

The pairs of Thomas Pieters and Alex Noren and Thomas Detry and Antoine Rozner secured two vital points to give Continental Europe a short advantage heading into day two of the Hero Cup.

Matt Chivers's picture
Fri, 13 Jan 2023
Hero Cup: Continental Europe hold narrow lead over GB&I in Abu Dhabi

Francesco Molinari's Continental Europe side won the first session of the Hero Cup 3-2, taking a slender lead over Great Britain and Ireland into day two.

Thomas Pieters and Alex Noren, who have both played for Europe at the Ryder Cup once each, significantly won the top match of fourball day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club against Shane Lowry and GB&I captain Tommy Fleetwood.

The Belgian/Swedish pair were never down in this match in which they started fast. With birdies on the 2nd and 6th holes from Pieters, Continental Europe went 2 up and the 30-year-old added another birdie on the 9th to take a 3 up lead at the turn.

Lowry, winner of the 2022 BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, battled back with a birdie on the par-5 10th and his English partner made a birdie on 15 to tie things up. 

But it was Noren who won the match for the light blue of Continental Europe with a birdie on the 18th hole. The 40-year-old thrilled the crowd at the 2018 Ryder Cup when he holed a long putt on the final hole to beat Bryson DeChambeau in their singles match at Le Golf National.

"It was a battle on my behalf. I played some decent golf in the middle but just happy to get the up-and-down on the last," Noren said.

"And Thomas, he hit some great shots in the end to get it, and the whole front nine he played great. He helped out the most, it was great."

Molinari's side took a two-point lead when Thomas Detry and Antoine Rozner won 2 up against Tyrrell Hatton and Jordan Smith, despite a fast start from Hatton in which he made two birdies in the first four holes to take GB&I 2 up.

Detry responded with two birdies of his own and Rozner, who was the last pick in the Continental Europe side courtesy of overseeing captain Luke Donald, birdied the par-4 9th for a 1 up lead.

After being pegged back, Continental Europe maintained a 1 up lead until the par-4 17th hole when Smith rolled in a 50-footer for birdie. But Rozner responded in true match play style with a 20-footer of his own to halve the hole.

"We formed a great team, for sure. Happy to get a point for the team," said Rozner.

Detry won the 18th with a birdie to seal the deal. This was when Robert MacIntyre and Seamus Power carried the fight for GB&I with a comprehensive 4&3 win over Sepp Straka and Adrian Meronk.

The pair made 10 birdies in 15 holes between them and completely shut out their DP World Tour colleagues who also made six birdies as a pair.

MacIntyre won the DS Automobiles Italian Open in 2022 and Power tasted success at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship, so 2023 could be even bigger for this duo with the Ryder Cup coming in September.

The final two matches were tense affairs as Matt Wallace and Callum Shinkwin halved with Guido Migliozzi and Victor Perez, and Richard Mansell and Ewen Ferguson shared spoils with Molinari and Nicolai Hojgaard.

After GB&I survived a scare on 18 when Hojgaard's putt rolled by the hole for an eagle, Mansell showed nerves of steal in holing a crucial birdie putt to keep the tournament deficit to one point.

Mansell was the last pick from Donald for GB&I, while Nicolai replaced his brother Rasmus who pulled out earlier this week with an injury.

The second round will feature 10 foursomes matches across two sessions and the final day will feature 10 singles matches. Every player in each team is involved in every session.