Golf: Molinari-led Continental Europe win title in inaugural Hero Cup
Starting the day with a two-point lead, Continental Europe, led by skipper Francesco Molinari, overcame Great Britain and Ireland 14 -- 10 in the inaugural Hero Cup. Molinari's team picked six points from Sunday's singles session at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
Abu Dhabi, Jan 15 (IANS) Starting the day with a two-point lead, Continental Europe, led by skipper Francesco Molinari, overcame Great Britain and Ireland 14 -- 10 in the inaugural Hero Cup. Molinari's team picked six points from Sunday's singles session at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
Continental Europe, who led by one point on the first day, extended it to two by the end of the second day and finally finished four points clear.
Molinari received the Hero Cup from Dr Pawan Munjal, Chairman and CEO of Hero Motocorp and he was honoured by the Abu Dhabi Golf Club for his contribution to the game.
While Molinari excelled during the week staying unbeaten with 3.5 points in four matches, Adrian Meronk, the tall Pole, who had lost his three previous matches, picked the winning point beating Callum Shinkwin 1-up.
Captain Molinari set the tone with a 3&2 victory over Irishman Shane Lowry in the opening match of the day to ensure he ended the week unbeaten, dropping only half a point in the Friday fourballs.
Great Britain and Ireland bounced straight back with wins in matches three and four, with their captain Tommy Fleetwood beating Thomas Pieters 3 &2 before England's Tyrrell Hatton defeated Frenchman Antoine Rozner 5 & 4 to swing the momentum back in their favour.
Then came what proved to be the pivotal matches, with a stretch of tightly-contested pairings. Samus Power and Denmark's Nicolai Hjgaard went toe-to-toe with the Irishman going 2-up through three holes before the Dane reeled off a trio of birdies prior to the turn. Power got back on level terms with a birdie at the 13th but the point ultimately went to the Continental Europe team, as a Hjgaard birdie at the 16th was enough for a 1up victory.
Matt Wallace's 2 &1 victory over Thomas Detry kept Great Britain and Ireland's hopes alive, but Victor Perez - who finished the week unbeaten - completed a 4 &2 win against Jordan Smith while Ewen Ferguson went down 5 & 4 to Sepp Straka to put Continental Europe within half a point of securing the Hero Cup.
That meant it all came down to Poland's Meronk, the two-time DP World Tour winner, who had lost all three of his matches across the first two days. He rose to the occasion as he holed a 25-foot birdie putt on the last to secure both a 1-up triumph over Callum Shinkwin and the Hero Cup for Continental Europe.
While Meronk was holing the all-important putt for the Trophy, both teams added one point to their overall tallies as Scotland's Robert MacIntyre won 5 & 3 against Swede Alex Noren, before Italy's Guido Migliozzi retained his unbeaten record with a 4 & 3 win against Richard Mansell, from England.
Molinari was thrilled with the win, and said, "Amazing, amazing. I could finally relax. The last couple of hours has been tense after finishing my game. But yeah, it's been great all week, super happy for the guys. Like I said all week, it's been very, very easy leading them and being a captain for them. I think we found some really good pairings and just had a great week to start the year and I can only wish them all the best for the rest of the season.
Fleetwood for his part won his singles, but the team lost. He said, " Of course I am (disappointed). It's not always about how you play. Obviously, we came here to win and we wanted to do it for each other but at the end of the day, the first thing that I said at the start of the week was teammates don't remember if you play badly or you miss a putt or you lose a point but everybody remembers if you don't give it 100 per cent, and I couldn't have asked for any more from anybody this week."
Meronk said, "I didn't hole a lot of putts today, and the whole tournament so it was great to have this final putt on the last on 18. It was a perfect pace with the team around me and special.
"Winning as a team is much more fun, you have these guys supporting you and playing with them and playing as a team, I think it's just more fun and more enjoyable for me for sure."