Melbourne: A miraculous putt from Rafa Cabrera Bello on the 18th green gave Spain the lead after a challenging opening round of the World Cup of Golf in Melbourne on Thursday.
Cabrera Bello and his youthful teammate Jon Rahm executed a flawless game plan in the blustery conditions, which made foursomes — alternate shot — play difficult for the two-man teams at Kingston Heath.
With only six countries returning scores under par, the Spanish combination took a one-shot lead over the USA, France and China — courtesy of the late birdie that resulted from Cabrera Bello’s snaking 15-foot putt.
Rahm drove the ball magnificently and Cabrera Bello did the rest around the greens as the pair gelled well to notch a three-under par 69 ahead of Friday’s fourballs.
Cabrera Bello said he could not believe his last putt had dropped.
“I thought I had holed it, then it looked like it was going to miss right and then, I don’t know how, maybe someone upstairs put some backspin on it to go in the hole,” the two-time European Tour winner said.
Spain will be grouped on the second day with France whose Victor Dubuisson and Romain Langasque returned a two-under par round of 70.
The USA, with Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker, justified their pre-tournament tag of favourites as they made the most of every opportunity card a 70.
US PGA champion Walker holed a sensational bunker shot on the 13th to ignite a run of two more birdies.
It was another “unbelievable” putt on the 18th green from China’s Wu Ashun that helped he and Li Haotong emerge as crowd favourites in a round of two-under 70.
The China pair had the galleries cheering as they drained a series of long putts and celebrated each with jumping chest bumps.
Hosts Australia battled all day just to stay at two-over 74, five shots behind leaders Spain. Playing alongside the Americans, world number seven Adam Scott and Marc Leishman lacked struggled to get the ball close to the pin.
South African pair Jaco van Zyl and George Coetzee stumbled seven shots behind the leaders with a four-over par 76.